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From the Library of 

RALPH EMERSON FORBES 
1866-1937 



SACHU SETTS BOSTON LIBRARY~E 



cStantiarti Hibtatp <£fcition 

A HISTORY OF 
THE GREAT WAR 

IN FOUR VOLUMES 

r 

VOLUME III 



Marshal Ferdinand Foch 
From a painting by Sir William Orpen, R.A. 



A HISTORY OF 

THE GREAT WAR 

BY 
JOHN BUCHAN 

VOLUME III 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK. 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 
i9 2 3 



UNIV. OF WUmCWJSSSSP 
AT BOSTON - tWMUT 



LVII. Brussilov in Galicia (June 3-August 11, 1916) . 

Change in Russia's Plan — Condition of Austrian Armies— 
Brussilov's five Battle-grounds — Fall of Lutsk and 
Dubno — The Affair at Baranovitchi— Fall of Czerno- 
vitz and Kimpolung— Capture of Brody— Results of the 
Ten Weeks' Battle — Changes in Austrian Dispositions. 



16 



CONTENTS. 

BOOK II. {Continued). 

THE BELEAGUERED FORTRESS. 

LIII. The British Line in the West (February 8- June 
18, 1916) 

Fighting around the Ypres Salient — The Canadians at- 
tacked — The Training of the New Armies— The " Break- 
ing-point " in War— The Prophylactics against Fear- 
Death of the younger Moltke. 

LIV. The Political Situation (February 10- June 24, 
i9 l6 ) 

The Operation of the Military Service Act in Britain — 
The British Budget of 1916 — Germany's Finances — 
Death of Gallieni — Resignation of Tirpitz— America's 
Ultimatum to Germany— The Easter Rebellion in Ire- 
land. 

LV. The Battle of Jutland (May 30- June 5, 1916) . 32 

The British Grand Fleet on May 30 — Jellicoe's Prin- 
ciples of Naval War— The German Fleet sighted— The 
Battle-cruiser Action — Arrival and Deployment of Battle 
Fleet — The Race southward — The Night Action — British 
and German Losses— The Points in Dispute— Summary 
of Battle — Death of Lord Kitchener. 

LVI. The Austrian Attack in the Trentino (October 

21, 1915-June 15, 1916) 55 

The Winter Fighting in Italy, 1915-1916 — Plan of Aus- 
trian Staff — Topography of the Asiago Plateau — The 
Attack begins — Arrival of Reserves from Fifth Army — 
The Attack dies away — Boselli succeeds Salandra as 
Prime Minister. 



66 



viii CONTENTS. 

BOOK III. 

THE GREAT SALLIES. 

LXXII. The Russian Coup d'£tat (December 29, 1916- 

March 16, 1917) 379 

Rasputin : his Career and Death — Protopopov — The 
Quiet before the Storm — Revolt of Petrograd Garrison 
— Formation of Provisional Government — The Petrograd 
Soviet — Abdication of the Emperor — The House of 
Romanov — The Gap to be filled — The Failure of the 
Moderates. 

LXXIII. The New Government in Britain (December 

19, 1916-May 2, 1917) 4°3 

Mr. Lloyd George — The War Cabinet — Problems of Men, 
Food, and Raw Materials — The British Finances — 
Labour. 

LXXIV. The Breaking of America's Patience (Janu- 
ary 22-April 6, 1917) 4 20 

Effect on America of Germany's new Submarine Policy 
— Diplomatic Relations suspended — American Mer- 
chant Ships armed— The special Session of Congress — Mr. 
Wilson's Message — America declares War. 

LXXV. Germany shortens her Western Line (No- 
vember 16, 1916-April 5, 1917) .... 432 

The new Hindenburg Positions — Nivelle departs from 
Joffre's Policv— Haig's Difficulties — The final Arrange- 
ments — The British capture Serre — Beginning of German 
Retreat — The New Line and its Pivots. 

LXXVI. The Battle of Arras (April 4-June 6, 1917) 447 

The Arras Neighbourhood — Haig's Problem and Dis- 
positions — The Attack of Easter Monday — Difficulties 
of Weather — Fighting on the Scarpe and at Bullecourt— 
Summary of Battle. 

LXXVII. The Second Battle of the Aisne (December 

16, 1916-June 2, 1917) 465 

Nivelle's new Strategy — Attitude of new French Cab- 
inet — The Heights of the Aisne — Defects in French Plan 
— The Attack begins — The Moronvillers Fighting — 
Petain succeeds Nivelle — Foch Chief of General Staff- 
Last Days of the Battle — The French Mutinies. 

LXXVIII. Mesopotamia, Syria, and the Balkans (Janu- 
ary 9-June 25, 1917) 482 

Maude advances north of Bagdad — Escape of Turkish 
13th Corps — Capture of Samara — Falkenhayn sent to 
Turkey — The First and Second Battles of Gaza — Allenby 
succeeds Murray — Sarrail's abortive Spring Offensive — 
King Constantine abdicates, and Venizelos becomes 
Prime Minister. 



CONTENTS. 



IX 



LXX1X. The Russian Revolution (March 16-July 23, 

1917) 5o6 

The Weakness of Russia — The Origin of Bolshevism — 
Lenin and Others — The Soviet Principle — Progress of 
the Provisional Government — The last Russian Offen- 
sive — Brussilov's initial Success — The Debdcle. 

LXXX. The Italian Front in the Summer of 1917 

(May 12-September 18, 1917) .... 530 

The Capture of Monte Kuk and Monte Santo — The 
Fight for Hermada — The Bainsizza Plateau won — The 
Struggle for San Gabriele — Cadorna closes his Offensive. 

LXXXI. The Third Year of War : the Change in the 
Strategic Position (June 28, 1916-June 28, 
1917) 546 

The " Mathematical Certainty " of 1917 — The New 
Factor — Tactical Developments — Landing of first 
American Troops — The Year at Sea — Gravity of Sub- 
marine Peril — America sends Destroyers — Revision of 
War Aims — Economic Position of the Belligerents — A 
New Europe. 

LXXXII. The Third Battle of Ypres (June i-November 

10, 1917) 57° 

Haig's Flanders Policy — Sir Herbert Plumer — Battle of 
Messines — The Preliminaries of Third Ypres — The " Pill- 
boxes " — The Attack of 31st July — The Weather — The 
Attack of 1 6th August — The September and October 
Actions— Capture of Passchendaele — Summury of Battle. 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

VOLUME III 

Marshal Ferdinand Foch Frontispiece 

British Battleships in Action at Battle of Jutland 
(About 6:30 p.m., May 31, 1916) 42 

From a painting by Robert H. Smith 

The Old German Front Line, 1916 152 

From a painting by Charles Sims, R.A. 

A Street in Arras 450 

From a painting by John S. Sargent, R.A. 

Admiral William Sowden Sims 556 



A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR 



CHAPTER LIII. 

THE BRITISH LINE IN THE WEST. 
February 8-June 18, 1916. 

Fighting around the Ypres Salient — The Canadians attacked — The Training of the 
New Armies — The " Breaking-point " in War — The Prophylactics against 
Fear — Death of the younger Moltke. 

WHEN the Imperial Crown Prince unleashed his attack on 
Verdun one part of his purpose was to induce a British 
counter-offensive. Hence the German lines were not thinned else- 
where ; least of all on the British front, where the chief danger was 
anticipated. The citadel on the Meuse soon became a maelstrom 
which sucked in all free strategic reserves, and demanded the com- 
plete attention of the German Staff. Elsewhere the war seemed to 
stand still, while the world watched the most heroic and skilful 
defence that history had known. Verdun was France's exclusive 
business, and her generals chose to hold the line there with their 
own troops, and to ask for no reinforcements from the British front. 
Kitchener at once offered British divisions for the Meuse, but Joffre 
gratefully declined them. Help, however, was given in another 
way. The British armies took over the whole line from Ypres to the 
Somme, and the French Tenth Army, which had held the line from 
Loos to a point south of Arras, was released for the main battle 
ground. This was not the only contribution made by the Allies 
during that long struggle. On 20th April a contingent of Russian 
troops, some 8,000 strong, landed at Marseilles. They had been 
brought across Siberia, and then by sea from Dalny, by way of the 
Suez Canal. Their number could represent no great accession to the 



2 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Feb. 

French field force, but their presence was a proof of the new attempt 
at a unification of command among all the Allies which was needed 
to give effect to their unity of purpose. 

To the spectator it appeared that during the first half of 1916 
the British army was stagnant in the West. The judgment was 
in error. Its duty was the hard one of waiting — long months of 
desultory trench fighting with no concerted movement, no great 
offensive purpose, to quicken the spirit. It was a costly duty. 
Frequently the daily toll was over 1,000 ; and if we take only an 
average daily loss of 500, that gives a total in six months of 90,000 
men. From it all there came, apparently, no military result of any 
consequence. The British army was neither attacking nor seriously 
on the defence, and those indeterminate weeks were for officers 
and men among the hardest to bear in the whole campaign. Apart 
from the steady normal bombardment, the main activities were 
mining, and the enterprises which were known as " cutting-out 
parties." Both had been going on all winter, but in the new year 
they became a formula and a habit. Their chief use was to keep 
the spirit of the offensive alive in our men, to harass the enemy, 
and to provide information as to the exact German dispositions. 
Everywhere from Ypres to the Somme such raids were attempted, 
and on the whole we, who were the initiators of the adventures, 
kept the lead in them. But the Germans retaliated with various 
raids which, after their fashion, were more elaborately organized 
than ours. Mobile batteries toured along their front, and at 
different places opened a bombardment, under cover of which 
their infantry raided our front line, and carried off prisoners. It 
was remarked that these attempts were specially common south 
of Arras. Places like Gommecourt, La Boisselle, and Carnoy were 
frequently selected, as if the enemy had grown suspicious of that 
section of front which had never yet been the theatre of any great 
attack. 

The only serious fighting in the first half of the year took place 
in and around the Ypres Salient. There was no new Battle of 
Ypres, as many expected ; but there was a long-drawn struggle 
for certain points, which in the total wastage produced the results 
of a great action. In that ill-omened Salient the Germans held 
all the higher and better ground, and especially all the points 
which gave direct observation for artillery. Our trenches were 
for the most part in the water-logged flats, and when we reached 
dry ground we were, as a rule, commanded from elevations in front 
and flank. Further, all our communications were at the mercy 



igi6] THE FIGHT FOR THE BLUFF. 3 

of the enemy's shell fire. The trouble began on 8th February, 
when the German guns opened a heavy bombardment, which 
endured for several days. On the 12th, early in the morning, an 
infantry attack was delivered at the extreme left of our line, near 
the point, of junction with the French on the canal. Next day 
the centre of interest moved to the other side of the Salient. At 
Hooge the Germans had sapped out, and linked up their sap-heads 
into a connected line 150 yards from our front. On the 13th their 
guns obliterated our front trenches. On the 14th, in the afternoon, 
the whole section was under an intense bombardment, a series of 
mines were exploded, and infantry attacks were launched against 
our positions at Hooge and at the north and south ends of Sanctuary 
Wood. They failed, being checked by our rifle and machine-gun 
fire long before they reached their objective. 

Farther south the enemy had better fortune. On the north bank 
of the Ypres-Comines Canal was a ridge, 30 to 40 feet high, which 
owed its existence largely to the excavations for the channel. It 
was part of that horseshoe of shallow upland which separated the 
Ypres basin from the vale of the Lys, and connected in the south 
with the ridge of Messines. This particular hillock was covered 
with trees and was held by both sides, and to that eastern part of 
it over which our line passed we gave the name of The Bluff. A 
bombardment on the afternoon of the 14th all but obliterated our 
trenches there, and the infantry rush which followed captured 
them and their continuation to the north — in all, about 600 yards. 
It was an awkward piece of ground to lose, and after two fruitless 
attempts to recover it, we were compelled to sit down and wait for 
a better chance. The opportunity came on 2nd March, after the 
enemy had been in possession for seventeen days. To the 3rd 
Division was entrusted the task of winning the ground back. For 
several days we bombarded steadily, and at 4.30 on the morning of 
2nd March our infantry, wearing for the first time their new steel 
helmets, effected a complete surprise. They rushed the German 
trenches and found the enemy with bayonets unfixed, and many 
of them without rifles or equipment. The British right carried 
The Bluff with ease. The centre pushed through the German front, 
and took the third line, which they held long enough to enable the 
main ground to be consolidated. The left was delayed at first, 
but since those on its right could bring an enfilading fire to bear 
on the enemy, it presently was able to advance to its objective. 

At the end of the month the British again attacked. The 
Ypres Salient now represented a shallow semicircle, beginning in 



4 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [April 

the north at Boesinghe, on the Ypres-Dixmude Canal, and ending 
in the south at St. Eloi. At the latter point a small German salient 
had encroached on our line, to the depth of about ioo yards on a 
front of 600. It was resolved to get rid of this, and straighten our 
front, the place being roughly defined by the crossroads south of 
the village of St. Eloi, where the Messines and Warneton roads 
branched off. The first step was the exploding, on 27th March, of 
six large mines within the salient, a shock so colossal that it was 
felt in villages far behind the battle ground. Half a minute later 
the infantry — a brigade from the 3rd Division — were racing across 
the open to the German trenches. Inside the salient there was 
nothing but death and destruction ; but machine guns were busy 
on the flanks, and the left of the attack did not reach its objective, 
so that a way was left for the Germans to occupy one of the mine 
craters. The next few days were spent in repelling counter-attacks 
and endeavouring to oust the enemy from the crater which he held. 
This was successfully accomplished on 3rd April, and we thus 
gained the whole of our original objective — the German first and 
second lines on a front of 600 yards. 

Then followed some weeks of confused and difficult fighting. 
The 3rd Division was relieved by the 2nd Canadian Division, whose 
task was to consolidate the ground won. Little of the work had 
been done ; little could have been done owing to the weariness of 
the troops which had made the attack, and the water-logged soil, 
now churned into glutinous mire by the shelling and the mine 
explosions. The communication trenches had all been obliterated, 
and the German second line beyond the crater, which we nominally 
held, had never been properly converted, and was in any case 
practically destroyed by our own artillery fire. There was a very 
general doubt as to where exactly was the British front line, and 
where was the German. In such conditions it was not difficult 
for the enemy to push us out of his old second line. The Canadians 
— especially the 6th Brigade — were now holding isolated craters 
with no good communications between them. The near side of 
each crater was under direct enemy observation and constant fire, 
so that supplies and reliefs could only come up at night, and it was 
all but impossible to evacuate the wounded. At any one moment 
it was difficult to say what craters were held, and this uncertainty 
led to mistakes in sending up reliefs and considerable losses. Mean- 
time an incessant bombardment went on, and some of the craters 
were reduced to mere mud holes in no-man's-land, incapable of 
being held by either side. The Canadians occupied a demolished 



1916] THE CANADIANS ATTACKED. 5 

and much inferior position against greatly superior artillery, with 
few chances of communication, and no cover for approach except 
the darkness of the night. The general result was that we found 
the gains of March 27th and 3rd April untenable, and gradually 
loosened our hold on them. 

April and May saw various local attacks in the Ypres Salient, at 
Loos, and on the Vimy Ridge ; and in June these scattered activities 
drew to a head in one section, as if to anticipate the great Allied 
offensive now looming in the near future. The place was once 
again the Salient, that section of it from Hooge to the Ypres- 
Comines railway. It was held at the moment by the Canadians — 
the 3rd Division, under Major-General Mercer. South of Hooge 
lay the collection of broken tree trunks called Sanctuary Wood ; 
then the flat watery fields around Zwartelen, where the Household 
Cavalry made their dismounted charge at the First Battle of 
Ypres ; then just north of the Ypres-Menin railway the mound 
which was famous as Hill 60. Behind, between the British front 
and Ypres, was the hamlet of Zillebeke, with its melancholy pond. 
The area of the attack was nearly two miles in width, and being 
the apex of a salient, the Germans were able to concentrate their 
fire from three sides. At 9 o'clock on the morning of 2nd June a 
bombardment was loosed on the British front trenches, and a 
barrage was placed over the whole hinterland. The infantry attack, 
in spite of heavy losses, had by the evening won the whole of our 
old first line on a front of a mile and three-quarters, and during the 
night pushed through our centre towards Zillebeke to a depth 
of 700 yards. General Mercer was killed early in the day by shell 
fire, and General Williams of the 7th Canadian Brigade was wounded 
and made prisoner. 

At seven o'clock on the morning of the next day, 3rd June, 
the Canadians counter-attacked. They pressed on most gallantly, 
and won back much of the lost ground. But they could not stay 
in it, owing to the intensity of the German artillery fire, and they 
were compelled to fall back from most of that shell-swept area, 
which became a kind of extended no-man's-land. For two days 
the battle was stationary, and then at midday on 6th June the 
German guns opened again, concentrating on the front south and 
north of the shattered village of Hooge. North of that place they 
exploded a series of mines between three and four in the afternoon, 
and presently their infantry had penetrated our first-line trenches. 
This meant that the extreme point of the Ypres Salient had been 
flattened in, that our front now ran behind what had once been 



6 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

Hooge village, and that the enemy had advanced as far as the 
Bellewaarde brook. 

For a week the battle declined to an intermittent bombardment, 
for infantry raids were impossible owing to the downpour of rain. 
Then at 1.30 on the morning of 13th June a fresh Canadian division 
— the 1st, under Major-General Currie — attacked on a front of 
500 yards, extending from the south end of Sanctuary Wood to 
a point 1,000 yards north of Hill 60. They found that the enemy 
had not gone far in consolidating his gains, and they found, too, 
that our previous bombardments had done great execution. They 
occupied all his advanced line, and regained their original front 
trenches in the most important part of the section, inflicting heavy 
losses. Such gains in the marshes of the Salient were of little serious 
value, but they were a proof that the enemy could not take posi- 
tions there in which he could abide. 

In spite of these episodes the first half of 1916 was for the 

British field army a season of comparative quiet — a fortunate 

circumstance, for it enabled Haig to complete his command and 

perfect its training. Before midsummer the total of the British 

army at home and abroad was nearly five million. The nation was 

so prone to self-criticism that few realized and fewer admitted the 

stupendous and unparalleled character of this military achievement. 

There had been nothing like it in the history of any nation. With the 

possible exception of France, Britain had mobilized for the direct 

and indirect purposes of war a larger proportion of her population 

than any belligerent country. Moreover, while engaged in also 

supplying her Allies, she had furnished this vast levy with its 

necessary equipment. She had jettisoned all her old theories and 

calculations, and in a society which had not for a hundred years 

been called upon to make a great effort against an enemy, a society 

highly differentiated and industrialized, a society which lived by 

sea-borne commerce, and so could not concentrate like certain 

other lands exclusively on military preparation, she had provided 

an army on the largest scale, and provided it out of next to nothing. 

She had to improvise officers and staff, auxiliary services, munition- 

ment — everything. She had to do this in the face of an enemy 

already fully prepared. She had to do it, above all, at a time 

when war had become a desperately technical and scientific business, 

and improvisation was most difficult. It is possible to assemble 

speedily hosts of spearmen and pikemen, but it seemed beyond 

human capacity to improvise men to use the bayonet and machine 

gun, the bomb and the rifle. But Britain had done it, and had done 



igi6] THE TRAINING OF THE NEW ARMIES. 7 

it for the most part by voluntary enlistment. It was easy to point 
out defects in her organization. Some critics — notably Mr. Churchill 
— argued that there was an undue proportion of ration strength 
to fighting strength ; that half the total ration strength of the 
army was still at home ; that of the half abroad, half fought and 
half did not fight ; that of the half that fought, about three-quarters 
were infantry in the trenches, on whom fell almost all the loss ; 
that of every six men recruited at one end, only one infantry rifle 
appeared over the parapets at the other ; and that some 2,000,000 
soldiers had never been under fire. Undoubtedly there was room 
for " combing-out " ; for the embusque existed in the British as 
in other armies, and the staff at home had grown to a preposterous 
size. But in modern war, with its intricate organization, it was 
clear that an army must have a far greater proportion of men 
behind the fine than in any former campaign. The apparatus was 
so vast that the operative point must seem small in contrast to the 
mechanism which produced it. 

Meantime Haig was busy with the task for which he was qualified 
above almost all living soldiers, the training of troops. He had now 
received the balance of the New Army divisions from home as well 
as various units released from Gallipoli, and to produce that homo- 
geneity which is necessary in a field force much thought and time 
had to be given to field training. The work was performed by the 
Commander-in-Chief and his generals with infinite care, enthusiasm, 
and judgment. " During the periods of relief," he wrote, " all 
formations, and especially the newly created ones, are instructed 
and practised in all classes of the present and other phases of 
warfare. A large number of schools also exist for the instruction 
of individuals, especially in the use and theory of the less familiar 
weapons, such as bombs and grenades. There are schools for 
young staff officers and regimental officers, for candidates for 
commissions, etc. In short, every effort is made to take advantage 
of the closer contact with actual warfare, and to put the finishing 
touches, often after actual experience in the trenches, to the training 
received at home." The British armies in the field during the first 
half of 1916 were one great training school. 

In these months the mind of the High Command was facing a 
problem for the solution of which little data existed in past history. 
A great attack was in prospect — the greatest effort as yet made by 
the Allies in the campaign — and it must be made with a new type 
of army. The old regular was a known quantity ; the new soldier, 



8 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

representing every rank of life and variety of mind and tempera- 
ment, was still to be assessed. He had physique, brains, energy, 
and devotion, but he could not in the nature of things have that 
instinctive discipline which is the product only of years of service. 
Hence the effect of the new battle conditions upon the moral of the 
fighting man became a question of extreme practical urgency. In 
the last resort all wars depend upon the resisting power of five 
or six feet of shrinking human flesh. The men who fought at 
Marathon were not greatly different in physique and temperament 
from those who fought in Champagne and Poland. A pressure 
too great will overpower body and spirit. We have no scale by 
which to measure that pressure ; but, whether it be produced 
by clouds of arrows, by the swords of the legionaries, or by the 
shells of great guns, it must at all times in history have been 
approximately the same in quantity. There is always a breaking- 
point for the mortal soldier. 

The psychology of the fighting man in war had never as yet 
been made the subject of a professorial treatise. It was a work 
which might have been expected from the Teutonic genius, but it 
may be that the difficulty of making laboratory experiments stood 
in the way. Consequently the task had been left to the romancers, 
who usually argued without data. But, since mankind will always 
speculate upon a matter which so vitally concerns it, there was a 
variety of working rules which every soldier knew, but which he 
rarely formulated. The chief concerned the difficulty of sitting still 
under heavy fire. That was why the men in the support trenches 
which the enemy was shelling had a more difficult task than the 
attack. The chance of movement was a relief, and the fact that a 
definite job was before a man gave him something better to think 
about than expectations of a speedy decease. That was why, 
too, the officer, who had the problem of keeping his men together 
and getting them somewhere, was less likely to be troubled with 
nerves than the man whose business was merely to follow. To keep 
the mind engrossed was the great prophylactic against fear. 

The practical question was when the breaking-point would be 
reached — after what proportion of losses the defensive or the 
offensive would crumble. The question was really twofold, for 
the problem in defence was different in kind from the problem in 
attack. In the latter, to continue required a certain modicum of 
hope and mental energy ; in the former there need be no hope, 
but only a passive and fatalistic resistance. It was useless to 
speculate about the breaking-point in a defence. Against savage 



1916] THE BREAKING-POINT IN WAR. 9 

enemies, when there was no hope of quarter, even ordinary troops 
would resist desperately. Again, if men from pride of honour or 
from any other cause were wholly resolved not to surrender, they 
would perish to the last man. There was no man left of the 
Spartans at Thermopylae, or Roland's paladins at Roncesvalles, 
or the steel circle of the Scots nobles at Flodden. Yakub and the 
defenders of the Black Flag were utterly destroyed at Omdurman. 
There were no survivors of that portion of the 3rd Canadian Brigade 
at the Second Battle of Ypres which held St. Julien. The men, 
too, who found themselves in the last extremity, and were sup- 
ported by a shining faith, would wait on death as on a bridal. 
Gordon in his last days could write : " I would that all could look 
on death as a cheerful friend, who takes us from a world of trial 
to our true home." Or in another mood, with the exultation of 
the mystic on the threshold of immortality : " Look at me now, 
with small armies to command and no cities to govern. I hope 
that death will set me free from pain, and that great armies 
will be given me, and that I shall have vast cities under my 
command." 

But in attack the question of the breaking-point was pertinent. 
After what losses would a unit lose its coherence and dissolve ? 
The question, of course, only applied to corporate things like a 
company, a squadron, or a battalion, which depend for their military 
effect on training and discipline. A surge of individuals vowed 
to death will perish to the last man. A rush of Ghazis, determined 
to enter Paradise, will not cease so long as any are alive. Take 
the charge of Ali-Wad-Helu's horsemen against the left of Mac- 
donald's brigade at Omdurman. Mr. Churchill has described it. 
" Many carrying no weapon in their hand, and all urging their 
horses to their utmost speed, they rode unflinchingly to certain 
death. All were killed and fell as they entered the zone of fire — 
three, twenty, fifty, two hundred, sixty, thirty, five and one out 
beyond them all — a brown smear across the sandy plain. A few 
riderless horses alone broke through the ranks of the infantry." 
There was no rule for such Berserker courage. The question was, 
how far discipline would carry men who had no hankering for 
Paradise. 

In the eighteenth century it carried them very far. Those were 
the days of a rigid and elaborate drill, and a discipline observed 
with the punctiliousness of a ritual. It may have been inelastic 
and preposterous, and destined to go down before a less mechanical 
battle order, but it achieved miracles all the same. Military records 



io A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

from Blenheim to Jena are starred with examples of the most 
conspicuous fortitude. Napoleon and the armies of the Revolution 
largely upset the old regime, but they, too, could achieve the im- 
possible, and the last charge of the French Guard at Waterloo is 
among the classic feats of history. 

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, when human life 

began to be more highly valued, and philosophers looked forward 

to the decline of war, there was a tendency to underestimate the 

power of human endurance. Theorists took to fixing a maximum 

loss in attack beyond which civilized troops could not keep cohesion. 

The favourite figure was twenty-five per cent. ; but as a matter 

of fact this was exceeded in many contemporary instances, such 

as the charge of Pickett's Virginians at Gettysburg and Bredow's 

Todtenritt at Mars-la-Tour, when of the 7th Magdeburg Cuirassiers 

only 104 returned, and of the 16th Lancers only go. This maximum, 

whatever justification it may have once possessed, ceased to have 

much meaning as the conditions of fighting changed, and it was 

altogether exploded by the performance of the Japanese at Port 

Arthur. The truth is that no such figures could mean much, for 

the power of a unit to advance after losses depended entirely upon 

circumstances. For one thing, a cavalry charge was different 

from an infantry attack. The swift, headlong movement of the 

former deadened consciousness and the faculty of introspection, 

and a mounted remnant might go on where foot soldiers would 

slacken. Again, much depended upon the casualties among the 

officers. Normally, if a high proportion of officers fell, the unit 

would go to pieces, even though its total losses were not extravagant. 

But even this rule had striking exceptions, such as the achievement 

of the 7th Gloucesters at Gallipoli, who fought from midday till 

sunset on 8th August without any officer, and the 19th London 

at Loos, who, with their commissioned ranks practically out of 

action, carried out their part in the advance without a hitch. 

Again, the sense of winning, of being the spear-head of a successful 

thrust, might add to corporate discipline the complete fearlessness 

of the fanatic. The human spirit might be keyed up to such a point 

that each man acquired a separate purpose distinct from the purpose 

of his unit, and would go on, however badly his unit were mauled. 

The 9th Black Watch at Loos, and more than one regiment in 

Champagne, provided instances where a battalion continued to 

advance successfully when it was little more than a company 

strong. Or pride in a glorious record might in exceptional cases 

inspire the wildest heroism, even when there was no hope of victory, 



1916] PROPHYLACTICS AGAINST FEAR. n 

as was proved by the performance of Irmanov's 3rd Caucasians in 
their great fight at Jaslo, in the retreat from the Donajetz. 

At first sight it seemed safe to say that the most modern con- 
ditions of war must weaken the nerve power for an attack. The 
shattering percussion of the great shells, the curtain of shrapnel, 
the malign chatter of the machine guns, the heavy fumes of high 
explosives, the deadly effect of trench mortars, and such extra 
tortures as gas, asphyxiating shells, and lachrymatory bombs, 
seemed to make up an inferno too awful for man to endure. Besides, 
there was the maddening slowness of it all. In the old days battles 
were over in a few hours, or, at the most, a day. An attack suc- 
ceeded or failed, but did not stretch into endless stages, each 
involving a new effort, and, in the intervals, the grimmest discom- 
fort. Much can be done if there is good hope that it will soon be 
over. But if the gain of one position only paved the way for an 
attack upon a second, the nervous tension would not be relieved 
by any such expectation. A man could not tell himself, " If I 
live through the next half-hour I will be safe," for he knew that 
even if he lived through the next half-hour there was every chance 
that he would fall five minutes later. A modern attack was of 
necessity lengthy, dogged, and sullen. 

Yet it was doubtful if this increase in the terror of war had 
lowered the breaking-point. To meet it, modern armies seemed 
to have attained an increase in nerve power. The explanation, 
perhaps, was that the carnival of violence carried with it its own 
cure. After a little experience of it the senses and imagination 
were deadened. The soldier revised his outlook, and the new terror 
became part of the background, and so was half forgotten. If the 
tension at any one time lasted too long, the deadening might stop, 
and the tortured nerves be exposed again. But if the senses were 
once blunted, and no opportunity was given for that awakening 
when the wheel came full circle, the human soul would adapt 
itself to the strangest conditions. That seemed to be one moral of 
the campaign. 

There were certain prophylactics against fear. The bellicosity of 
the natural man stopped short at the modern apparatus of combat. 
No sane man was born with a love of shell fire, and few sane men 
have ever acquired a complete impassivity in face of it. Certainly 
not the best soldiers. The first fact to be recognized was that the 
ordinary man, however stout his patriotism, would want to run 
away. The confession of the New York private in the American 
Civil War was true of all wars and of the raw material of all armies. 



12 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

" We heard all through the war that the army was eager to be led 
against the enemy. It must have been so, for truthful correspondents 
said so, and editors confirmed it ; but when you come to hunt 
for this particular itch it was always the next regiment that had it. 
The truth is, when bullets are whacking against tree trunks, and 
solid shot are cracking skulls like egg-shells, the consuming passion 
in the heart of the average man is to get out of the way. Between 
the physical fear of going forward, and the moral fear of turning 
back, there is a predicament of exceptional awkwardness, from 
which a hidden hole in the ground would be a wonderfully welcome 
outlet." * 

The first safeguard against fear was the sense of community. 
That was the meaning of discipline, that the individual lost himself 
in the unit, that he acquired the instinct to act in a certain way, 
even when a fluttering heart and a shrinking body bade him 
refrain. The man who with tight lips and a pale face advanced 
and held his ground under fire might be acting from a sense of 
duty or honour, but most commonly he was simply following an 
acquired instinct. But to give this instinct full play there must 
be the sense of companionship, and this was apt to be lost if the 
individual were too isolated. That was why the Germans, who used 
open order in 1870, had so many stragglers, and consequently in 
later years tended to adopt mass formations, having to incorporate 
in their ranks many partially trained and unwilling elements. 
That was why a thin skirmishing line always demanded a fairly 
high degree of training. In any case, whatever the experience of 
the troops, to preserve the sense of community it was necessary 
that they should have the consciousness that supports were not 
far off. They should be aware that behind them were other troops 
to reinforce them, and to profit by their efforts. This precept 
was recognized in the disposition of the Roman legions^ and it was 
one of Napoleon's chief maxims. We find it in the French regula- 
tions of 1875, which provided for renforts, to fill up the gaps in the 
firing line, and soutiens, who were meant to remain in the rear and 
produce a moral effect on the striking force. An officer of the 1870 
war, quoted by Colonel Colin, wrote : " Every man should be able 
to see a little way behind him a body of troops which is following 
him and backing up his movements. He gets great confidence in 
that way, and will be brave far more readily. In several critical 
situations I have heard the following reflection in the mouth of the 
men : ' There is no one behind us ! ' The words circulated from 
* Battles and Leaders 0/ the Civil War, Vol. II., p. 662. 



1916] THE PROTECTION OF CUSTOM. 13 

one to another, anxious heads were turned back, almost inevitably 
dash faded away." * 

A second safeguard was action. " Immobility, physical, moral, 
and intellectual stagnation, surrender a man unreservedly to his 
emotions ; whereas movement, work of any kind, tends to deliver 
him from them." Movement was not always possible, but whenever 
it could be permitted it was a great security against fear. The 
Japanese knew this, and in the Manchurian war their speed of 
advance was amazing. The latter part of the 1870 war was fought 
by the French mainly with untrained troops, and whenever they 
did well it was because they were taken forward at a brisk pace. 
If movement was out of the question, shooting was a relief even 
when it was ineffective. A famous student of the psychology of 
war has called it " the safety-valve of fear." 

But the greatest of all safeguards was simply custom. It was 
the end to which the other safeguards were ancillary. Human 
nature becomes case-hardened under the sternest trials. If troops 
were " entered " skilfully to the terrors of war, it was amazing 
what a protective sheath formed over the soldier's nerves. A 
new battalion during its first day in the trenches might be restless 
and " jumpy " ; in a week it was at ease, and most probably too 
callous to the risks of the business. All men employed in dangerous 
trades — fishermen, sailors, miners, railwaymen — have this happy 
faculty. It is a Western form of kismet, a belief that till their hour 
comes they are safe. If death at any moment may appear out 
of the void it is useless to fuss about it, for nothing that they do 
can prevent it. Once this stoicism was attained the men were 
seasoned. War, instead of being a season of horrid tremors, be- 
came a routine, even a dull routine. It seems strange to use the 
word " dull " in connection with so hazardous a game, but such was 
the fact. Seasoned troops adjusted themselves to their novel en- 
vironment, and for one man who found it too nerve-racking ten 
would find it monotonous. 

With due preparation and careful treatment, it seemed certain 
that even in modern war the breaking-point could be postponed 
very far. The callous sheath, once it had formed, was hardy 
enough. But it was important to make sure that it was given a 
chance of forming. To use raw troops in a serious movement 
before they had been broken to war was to court disaster, and to be 
cruelly unfair to the troops themselves. And even with seasoned 
men it had to be remembered that there was always a breaking- 
* The Transformations of War, p. 80. 



14 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

point. Armies are delicate things, and the finer their temper the 
more readily will they be ruined by clumsy handling. The best 
force in the world can be tried too high. A battalion which was 
left too long in, or returned too often to, a bad section of trench 
line was apt to lose heart. So with the use of troops in action. 
It was a mistake to send in a unit too often and at too short 
intervals, more especially if it was seriously depleted in strength. 
The vigour of the offensive departed, and at the best was replaced 
by the fatalism of the defensive. 

The matter had a special urgency in relation to the future 
offensive which occupied the minds of the Allies during the winter of 
1915-16. It was becoming clear that every artillery " preparation " 
must be limited in range, and that troops which advanced too far 
under its cover would, sooner or later, be brought up against un- 
broken defences. The natural conclusion was that any advance 
must be by way of stages — the capture of one position by infantry, 
and then an artillery concentration against the next position, fol- 
lowed by a second infantry attack. But it was certain that troops 
which were checked in their first impetus, and compelled to con- 
solidate the ground won and beat off counter-attacks, would be 
tried too high if, some days later, they were given the task of 
assaulting the next position. In such tactics we might at any 
moment stumble upon the breaking-point. The remedy was, obvi- 
ously, the use of fresh troops for each stage of the advance, a con- 
stant chain of reserves passing up for each movement. By such 
a method every stage would have the advantage of a fresh impetus, 
and the supreme trial of modern war — recurrent efforts in which 
the spirit of the offensive must flag from sheer exhaustion — be 
avoided save in the last necessity. 

This note would be incomplete without a reference to that high 
and sublimated battle spirit which is rare at the best of times, 
but which in all armies is possessed by the fortunate few. " Joy 
of battle " is a phrase too lightly used, and may well seem to most 
men a grim misnomer. Yet it is a reality, a thing which comes 
not from the deadening of feeling, but from its quickening and 
transmutation. It belongs especially to youth, which finds in the 
colossal hazards of war an enlarged vitality. It is not pugnacity, 
for there is no rancour in it ; the Happy Warrior fights not because 
he has much to hate, but because he has much to love. The true 
type is the minstrel Volker of Alsace, in the " Lay of the Nibelungs," 
whose weapon was a sword-fiddlebow ; every blow he struck 
went home, but every blow was also a note of music. Such souls 



1916] DEATH OF THE YOUNGER MOLTKE. 15 

have won not relief only, but joy ; not merely serenity, but exul- 
tation. The glory of life is never felt more keenly than when the 
next moment may see it quenched, for the greatest of its glories 
is to be armed and mailed for the fray. In the ascending scale of 
battle tempers we may place first acquiescence, then peace, and 
last this positive glow and welcome. It found perfect expression 
in the verses which Captain Julian Grenfell wrote before his death 
at Second Ypres, when spring was flushing the Flanders meadows — 
verses which may well come to be regarded as the chief of the war's 
bequests to poetry. 

On 18th June the younger Moltke died, at the age of sixty- 
eight. As Chief of the German Staff at the opening of the war 
he had been responsible for taking from its pigeon-hole the famous 
plan which Germany had been working at for so many years. 
That plan failed utterly at the Marne and Ypres, and Moltke was 
succeeded by the younger and abler Falkenhayn, to whom fell the 
difficult task of revising the whole German scheme and organizing 
his country for that war of endurance of which she had never 
dreamed. The death of this bearer of a famous name and ex- 
ponent of the traditional German strategy had at the moment a 
dramatic significance. It marked the end of the long second stage 
of the war in the West, the stage in which Germany had held her 
lines by virtue of a superior machine. For, while the Canadians 
were struggling at Ypres for a few hundred yards of swamp, and 
the tide of assault at Verdun was breaking on the bastion of the 
French defence, in Picardy the Allied guns were massing, and great 
armies were making ready for an implacable offensive. 



CHAPTER LIV. 

THE POLITICAL SITUATION. 

February 10-June 24, 1916. 

The Operation of the Military Service Act in Britain — The British Budget of 1916 
— Germany's Finances — Death of Gallieni — Resignation of Tirpitz — America's 
Ultimatum to Germany — The Easter Rebellion in Ireland. 

During the early months of 1916 there was a more optimistic 
temper abroad in the West than had been known since the pre- 
ceding spring. Even the fall of Kut failed to shake this com- 
posure — perhaps because the disasters of the second half of 1915 
had driven most men to write off from the Allied assets the 
various divergent operations in the East. The desperation of 
Germany's offensives, her boasting — so loud that it suggested an 
uneasy mind — her summons to her opponents to " look at the 
map " and admit her victory, seemed to argue some loss of grip 
on the situation. Public cheerfulness was increased by the superb 
French stand at Verdun. Here was a case of Germany using all 
her peculiar strength on one narrow section and failing to force it. 
Her losses, even in the eyes of the most sceptical, were not far short 
of those of the defence. If the mighty machine which had blown 
up the Russian front on the Donajetz a year before could do no 
better than this, it looked as if its days were numbered. The 
Allies were now on a level with their enemy in materiel, and they 
had the greater total number of men. They believed that the 
fighting quality of their infantry was at least as good, and it ap- 
peared that they had the saner strategical plan. 

Part of the restored confidence — in Britain, at any rate — was 
due to a better feeling towards the much-criticized civil Govern- 
ment. The Cabinet had taken certain steps, long overdue, towards 
making the nation a true partner in the war. Policy, so far as it 
concerned the blockade, the war in the air, and the conduct of the 
Navy, had been debated frankly in Parliament, and criticism, 

since it was given a fair outlet, lost its danger and gained in prac- 

10 



1916] CIVILIAN STAFF WORK. 17 

tical value. The passing of the new Military Service Act had satis- 
fied the national conscience, though it was clear that its imperfec- 
tions would have to be remedied by a more comprehensive measure. 
The worst difficulties with Labour seemed to be over, and, broadly 
speaking, the mind of the nation was occupied with certain definite 
points of administrative reform rather than with a general feeling 
of satiety towards its governors. Critics, to be sure, remained who 
pounced upon the foibles of politicians and pleaded for a " clean 
sweep." Their devotion to some strong, simple saviour of his 
country made them dredge deep in political and non-political life 
to find their ideal. But such an attitude was in reality a form of 
mysticism, analogous to the old quest for a panacea. It was a 
mood of imaginative rhetoric rather than of common sense. In 
the name of practical politics they sought something which was 
notably unpractical. For the man of destiny is the gift of God, 
and is not to be found by painful seeking. When he comes it is 
silently and without advertisement, and his own people commonly 
know him not. 

So far as the fighting services were concerned, the nation at 
large looked with composure and confidence on the admirals at sea 
and the generals in the field. It recognized that staff work had at 
last been rated at its proper value, and the stalwart figure of Sir 
William Robertson was a guarantee that empiricism should no more 
rule our general strategy. But it was also becoming widely felt 
that staff work was necessary too for civilian administration, and 
was especially needful for those intricate problems which would 
face the country at the conclusion of peace. The principles with 
which the war had been entered upon were still unshaken in esteem ; 
clamorous events had not yet called for a revision of war ideals. 
The interest of the Allies was still centred upon practical needs, 
but they now envisaged these needs as extending beyond hostilities. 
One section in Britain seemed to hold the schoolboy view that all 
that was required was to give Germany a beating, shake hands, 
and live happily with her ever afterwards. That was not the view 
of those most familiar with German methods, and it was certainly 
not the view of the French. They knew that Germany would 
never be so dangerous as in the period of apparent quiescence 
produced by her defeat, and that much that was gained by war 
might be lost to the Allies in the first twelve months after peace. 
It was known that she had made far-reaching plans, after her 
patient fashion, to meet the financial, economic, and political 
difficulties that would confront her, and it was very certain that 



18 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Feb. 

Britain, absorbed in departmental activities, had no scheme to 
counter these. Lord Haldane raised the question in the House of 
Lords, and the Prime Minister promised that a " Peace Book " on 
the analogy of the " War Book " of a General Staff would be pre- 
pared. But no adequate machinery was provided for its prepara- 
tion, and if the matter was to be left to the. odd men and the scanty 
leisure of the various departments it was clear that the result would 
be farcical. There was a real national anxiety that our unreadiness 
for war should not be matched by a like unreadiness for peace. 
A certain impulse in the direction of forethought and organization 
was given by the visit of Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister of the 
Australian Commonwealth and the most prominent leader of 
Labour in the Empire. In a series of speeches he warned his 
countrymen to take heed that what was won by the valour of the 
fleets and armies did not slip from slack civilian hands. The 
warning was opportune and effective, for this was a fresh voice, 
speaking an honest message very different from the plangent com- 
monplaces of its later manner. Britain was weary of the kind of 
thinking which is done only under the goad of an unlooked-for 
necessity. 

The coming into operation of the Military Service Act on 
February 10, 1916, did not end the recruiting difficulties. The 
work of granting exemptions lay with the local tribunals, and they 
showed a wide latitude in the interpretation of their duties. In 
some rural districts the able-bodied sons of farmers suddenly 
appeared as shepherds and cowmen, demanding and receiving 
exemption. The War Office was compelled to press for a revision 
of the list of reserved occupations, and new instructions had to be 
issued to the tribunals. There was trouble, too, with that typical 
British product, the conscientious objector. Logically, his posi- 
tion was impossible. He claimed the rights and declined the 
most urgent duty of citizenship, and chose in effect to declare 
himself an outlaw from the commonweal. Repugnance to military 
service was to be expected from many ; but in order to provide a 
respectable cloak for such shrinking, the obscure side-chapels of 
religion and politics suddenly found their votaries many times 
multiplied. It was no easy task to separate from such claimants 
the bona fide objectors and the charlatans, and blunders and 
hardships were inevitable. The brazen shirker often emerged 
triumphant, while the man of honest, if invalidish, conscience 
was penalized. The thing was presently to become a scandal, 
which, because it affected the very few, was unrealized by the 



i 9 i6] CONSCRIPTION. 19 

nation. The genuine conscientious objector was, in many cases, 
denied even his legal rights, and a number of sincere and 
honourable, if abnormal, beings were subjected to a persecution 
which could be justified on no conceivable grounds of law, ethics, 
or public policy. 

But at the moment the main trouble arose from the position of 
the married men, who had registered in the Derby scheme under the 
impression that no married men would be called up so long as any 
single men remained unattested. In the rush and confusion of 
that campaign, which had had something of the old electioneering 
business about it, wild promises had been made by canvassers 
which now recoiled on the Government's head. Lord Derby was 
justified in claiming that his pledge to the married men had been 
strictly fulfilled — the Military Service Act had been passed to 
bring in the single men ; and the married men who had attested 
had done so with full knowledge that they would be called up. 
But it was difficult for a married man to see hordes of the single 
creeping into reserved occupations, while he, owing to his patriot- 
ism, was being put to a serious economic loss. The discontent 
became so grave that the calling up of the married groups was 
postponed, and the Cabinet was forced to find some way out of 
the difficulty. There was the further fact that even the Military 
Service Act would scarcely provide the numbers needed to raise 
our field force to the desired level, and to keep it there. The 
military authorities furnished a note of their requirements, and 
declined to depart from it. 

There was obviously no way of getting rid of the practical 
injustice caused by the various tentatives of the past months 
except by an impartial conscription of all men of military age, 
whether married or single. But the Cabinet was slow to come to 
this decision. They agreed upon a scheme of " contingent com- 
pulsion," which meant that if after a certain period sufficient men 
were not recruited by ordinary enlistment, Parliament would be 
asked for compulsory powers. They also proposed to prolong the 
service of time-expired men till the end of the war, to bring all 
youths under the Military Service Act as soon as they reached the 
age of eighteen, and to transfer men enlisted for territorial bat- 
talions to any unit where they might be needed. At a two days' 
secret session of the House of Commons these projects were sub- 
mitted, and confidential information was given to members as to 
the exact military requirements of the nation. But when, on 22nd 
April, leave to introduce the new Bill was asked for, the scheme was 



20 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [April 

promptly rejected. The Labour members themselves disowned it 
as unjust and feeble, and demanded, now that the necessity had 
arisen, the straight course of " equal sacrifice." On 3rd May the 
Prime Minister introduced a Bill to extend, as from 24th June, 
the provisions of the Military Service Act to all unattested married 
men. From that date every male British subject ordinarily 
resident in Great Britain, and between the ages of eighteen and 
forty-one, was to be deemed duly enlisted in the regular army for 
the duration of the war. The third reading of the Bill was carried 
by a majority of 250 to 35, and it received the Royal assent on 
25th May. In a message issued on that day the King expressed 
to his people his recognition of the patriotism and self-sacrifice 
which had raised already by voluntary enlistment no less than 
5,041,000 men — " an effort far surpassing that of any other nation 
in similar circumstances recorded in history, and one which will be 
a lasting source of pride to future generations." 

Voluntary enlistment had, indeed, done marvels, and it was well 
that the world should have seen so notable a proof of the British 
temper. But its work was done, and, unless endless hardships were 
to be caused, it must be replaced by a different system. The long 
controversy was over, conscription was the law of the land, and the 
sum total of British manhood was at the disposal of the State. 
Moreover, the revolution was whole-hearted, and met with only 
the slenderest opposition. Such a change, it is probable, could 
not have been wrought by any sweeping or heroic measures in the 
early days of the war. It needed time for opinion to ripen and the 
necessities of the case to force themselves upon the public mind. 
But it is very certain that the country was ready for the step long 
before the Cabinet had screwed up its courage. In this matter 
the leaders lagged behind their followers in nerve and seriousness. 
The people of Britain surrendered what some chose to call their 
" birthright " of voluntaryism not because the Government de- 
manded the sacrifice, but because they forced it on the Govern- 
ment. Had the rulers been a little closer to the nation many 
heart-breaking delays would have been saved, and much needless 
waste in money and men. 

The Budget, which was introduced by the British Chancellor 
of the Exchequer on 4th April, was mainly an increase in existing 
taxes — a series of fresh cuts from the old joints. The expenditure 
for the year 1915-16 had been 1,559 millions, 31 millions less than 
the estimate ; the revenue was 337 millions, 32 millions in excess 



I9 i6] THE 1916 BUDGET. 21 

of the estimate. This left a deficit of 1,222 millions, which had been 
made good for the present by the various war loans, the sale of 
Exchequer Bonds and Treasury Bills, and the Anglo-French- 
American loan. For the coming year Mr. McKenna estimated the 
total expenditure at 1,825 millions, the total revenue at 502 mil- 
lions, leaving a deficit to be met by borrowing of 1,323 millions. 
The new taxes included an impost on tickets of admission to various 
amusements, and taxes on matches and mineral waters ; the rate 
of income tax for earned and unearned incomes was increased ; 
the duties on sugar, cocoa, and coffee were raised ; and the excess 
profits tax was advanced from 50 per cent, to 60 per cent. This 
enlarged taxation was boldly but not very scientifically conceived, 
since it laid too great a share of the extra burden on the pro- 
fessional and middle classes. There was justice in the complaint 
that more of the revenue might have been raised by indirect taxa- 
tion. But a time of war allows small leisure for fiscal reform, and 
statesmen not unnaturally tend to follow what for the moment 
is the line of least resistance. 

The Chancellor of the Exchequer permitted himself a forecast 
of the situation at the end of 1916-17. Our permanent revenue, 
leaving out the temporary yield of the excess profits tax, would 
then be 423 millions, our total indebtedness 3,440 millions, which, 
deducting the 800 millions advanced to the Allies and Dominions, 
left a net debt of 2,640 millions. Allowing for a sinking fund, 
this meant an annual debt charge of 145 millions. These enormous 
sums dazzled the eyes of the ordinary man, and left him giddy. 
It was impossible to base any reasoned view of the financial posi- 
tion on figures which so far transcended all past experience and 
calculation. But it was none the less true that, in comparison with 
former crises, and taking into account the total wealth and earning 
capacity of the nation, the colossal expenditure was still within our 
means. We were conducting our war finance generally on sound 
principles. While Germany proposed to raise at the outside 24 
millions by special taxation, we had obtained from the same source, 
in the first twenty months of war, over 146 millions, and in 1916-17 
we were raising over 300 millions. Our system of credit had stood 
the unparalleled strain, and our banking methods were vindicated 
beyond question in the eyes of the most querulous critic. The 
balance against us in foreign trade remained our chief difficulty, 
but we had done something in the past year to adjust it. One 
remarkable phenomenon was the revival of our export trade, in 
spite of the fact that our internal industries were being carried 



22 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [April 

on with less than half of their normal man-power. The economic 
position of Britain, when it was remembered to how large an extent 
she bore also the burdens of her Allies, was in many ways not the 
least of the surprises of the war. 

The student who turned to Germany found a very different 
state of affairs. Her pre-war organization had made her financial 
problem simple, but nothing could make the simplicity sound. 
Her four ingeniously manipulated loans had raised a large sum on 
paper, but she had provided scarcely any additional annual revenue 
to meet the enormous debt charge. She had increased her paper 
circulation by over 700 millions, while Britain had only found it 
necessary to increase hers by 100 millions. She was importing 
from neutrals, but she had few exports with which to pay for im- 
ports. The decline in the value of the mark in neutral markets — 
an average depreciation of 29 per cent. — showed that her industrial 
output was shrinking, as more and more men were taken for the 
field. The German Minister of Finance, Dr. Helfferich, made a 
speech in the Reichstag on 16th March in which he endeavoured to 
justify German methods. He took credit that his country had not 
imitated the British practice of new taxation, but had followed 
" the principles of orderly Imperial housekeeping," whatever these 
might be. But in the next breath he pleaded for new taxes, since 
" we cannot demand or accept milliards from a people which for 
the fourth time, in ardent patriotism and confidence, offers its 
savings to the Empire, unless we assure the due payment of in- 
terest." On this it might have been observed that the amount of 
new taxation proposed did not come within measurable distance 
of paying that interest. He criticized the British fashion of short- 
term debts, which he estimated at nearly 750 millions, including 
in this sum Exchequer Bonds, which had a five-year currency, as 
well as the American Loan. But Germany's own short-term debt 
at the end of February exceeded 800 millions. Moreover, the 
British system of continuous loans by bill or bond was a sound one : 
it represented a real subscription of existing funds ; whereas the 
big German long-term loan was largely a creation of artificial 
bank credits. Finally, he boasted that Germany was only spending 
half the sum that Britain spent daily on the war. In 1916 our 
daily expenditure was close on 5 millions, that of France about 
2\ millions, that of Russia just over 3 millions, and that of Italy 
something under 1 million. But he omitted to mention the fact 
that the British figures included separation allowances and loans 
to the Allies, which the German did not, and these items between 



i 9 i6] DEATH OF GALLIENI. 23 

them came to little less than i£ millions per day. Germany had 
to carry Austria, Bulgaria, and Turkey on her shoulders, and it 
was probable that her daily outlay, direct and indirect, was nearly 
equal to that of Britain. 

The spring months of 1916 saw changes in the personnel of 
various governments. In Russia Polivanov, whose liberal views 
offended the autocracy, was succeeded as Minister of War by 
General Schuvaiev ; M. Goremykin, the Premier, resigned, and 
his place was filled by a comparatively unknown man, M. Boris 
Sturmer. The Duma was reopened by the Emperor on 22nd 
February after its long prorogation, and the occasion was remark- 
able for a review of the situation in foreign affairs by M. Sazonov, 
and eloquent expressions of the national resolution by the Presi- 
dent, M. Rodzianko, and the new Prime Minister. In these 
speeches an appeal was made to the different schools of politics 
to let disputable questions of internal reform sleep for the mo- 
ment, and close their ranks against the common enemy. But 
there was something academic in the eloquence ; national unity 
was spoken of as a thing substantially in existence, and national 
strength as that which might be impaired but could never be 
broken ; there were few to read the omens right, and to dread, 
like Napoleon, the crows around the Kremlin. In France Gal- 
lieni was compelled by ill-health to leave the Ministry of War. 
On 27th May he died, and was mourned by his country as Britain 
had mourned for Lord Roberts. He was pre-eminently the vet- 
eran soldier of France, whose career made a continuous link be- 
tween her deepest humiliation and her greatest glory. He had 
fought in the war of 1870, and as the maker of French West Africa, 
Tonkin, and Madagascar had won high honour during the decades 
before 1914. When the great struggle came his health kept him 
back from the actual battle-front ; but as Governor of Paris in 
that hectic first week of September 1914 he had done much to 
make possible the victory of the Marne, and his grave and single- 
hearted courage had been an inspiration to his people. 

In the early part of March there had been remarkable changes 
at the German Marineamt. Tirpitz resigned on the nominal plea 
of ill-health, and was succeeded by his former subordinate, Admiral 
von Capelle. The news caused a sensation not only throughout 
the rest of Europe, but in Germany itself. To the ordinary German 
Tirpitz was the author and conductor of that submarine campaign 
which atoned in the popular mind for the inertia of the High Sea 



24 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [April 

Fleet, and the exponent of that ruthlessness in maritime warfare 
which must some day shatter the naval pride of Britain. The 
reason for his fall was the character of the man. He was obstinate 
and short-sighted, a hopeless colleague for a politique like the 
Imperial Chancellor. He was a confirmed intriguer, and, like some 
distinguished sailors elsewhere, had at his bidding an obedient 
claque of journalists. As the situation with America grew more 
difficult and delicate it was clearly impossible to have so reckless 
and headstrong an administrator at the head of the most con- 
troversial department in the service. The fall of Tirpitz was a 
triumph for the more cautious Bethmann-Hollweg. But, as has 
happened before in history, while the Minister went his policy 
remained. The importance of submarine ruthlessness was so deeply 
set in the popular mind that the Government dared not slacken in 
their efforts. Two Dutch liners, the Tubantia and the Palembang, 
were torpedoed without warning. Finally, on 24th March, came, 
as we have already seen, one of the most flagrant outrages in the 
history of the war — the sinking by a submarine of the Channel 
steamer S^lssex. A number of American citizens were among the 
victims, and Washington asked Berlin for explanations. The 
German Government replied by casting doubt upon the origin of 
the disaster — a doubt which America was soon in a position by 
indisputable evidence to dispel. 

On 19th April President Wilson made a speech in Congress 
which trenchantly indicted the whole German policy of sub- 
marine warfare. He returned to the thesis laid down in the 
first Lusitania Note, and since then overlaid by special pleas, 
that the submarine was not an admissible weapon for commerce 
destruction. It was " grossly evident that warfare of such a 
sort, if warfare it be, cannot be carried on without the most 
palpable violation of the dictates alike of right and humanity. 
. . . The use of submarines for the destruction of an enemy's 
commerce is of a necessity, because of the very character of 
the vessels employed and the very methods of attack which 
their employment as of course involves, incompatible with the 
principles of humanity, the long-established and incontro- 
vertible rights of neutrals, and the sacred immunities of non- 
combatants." He ended by declaring that he considered it 
his duty to inform Germany that " unless the Imperial German 
Government should now immediately declare and effect an aban- 
donment of its present methods of warfare against passenger 
and freight vessels, the Government can have no choice but to 



1916] GERMANY'S SUBMARINE CONCESSION. 25 

sever diplomatic relations with the Government of the German 
Empire altogether." The night before a Note in these terms had 
been sent by Mr. Lansing to Berlin. 

Here was at last the true ultimatum, which admitted of no 
misinterpreting. The Tirpitz policy of ruthlessness must be relin- 
quished in theory and practice, or America would join the bellig- 
erent Allies. The German reply, published on 4th May, was of the 
familiar type — a plea in confession and avoidance. It claimed that 
Germany had exercised a " far-reaching restraint " on her sub- 
marine warfare, solely in the interests of neutrals. It declared that 
this warfare could not be dispensed with, since it had been under- 
taken " in self-defence against the illegal conduct of Britain while 
fighting a bitter struggle for national existence." But it announced 
a concession. The German naval force was to " receive the following 
orders for submarine warfare in accordance with the general principle 
of visit, search, and destruction of merchant vessels recognized by 
international law. Such vessels, both within and without the area 
declared as a naval war zone, shall not be sunk without warning, 
and without saving human life, unless the ship attempt to escape 
and offer resistance." In return for this favour Germany expected 
that America " will now also consider all impediments removed 
which may have lain in the way of neutral co-operation to- 
wards the restoration of the freedom of the seas," and " will now 
demand and insist that the British Government shall forthwith 
observe the rules of international law universally recognized 
before the war," in the matter of interference with sea-borne 
commerce. 

In the connection in which it was delivered the reply could only 
be construed as a specific abandonment of the policy of " ruthless- 
ness." It was so interpreted by the United States. In his reply 
of 8th May, Mr. Wilson accepted the " Imperial Government's 
abandonment of a policy which had so seriously menaced the good 
relations of the two countries," and added that he relied upon its 
" scrupulous execution." As for Germany's attempt to acquire 
something in return for her concession the President did not 
mince matters. " The Government of the United States notifies 
the Imperial Government that it cannot for a moment enter- 
tain, much less discuss, the suggestion that respect by the 
German naval authorities for the right of citizens of the United 
States upon the high seas should in any way, or in the slightest 
degree, be made contingent upon the conduct of any other govern- 
ment as affecting the rights of neutrals and non-combatants. 



26 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [April 

The responsibility in such matters is single not joint, absolute not 
relative." * 

A diplomatic correspondence is to be read in the light of its 
attendant circumstances. Germany's reply and America's counter- 
reply, made in a time of great international strain, and in precise 
language, constituted something very different from the looser dis- 
cussions of the previous year. The belief seemed to be justified that 
the American President had spoken his last word, and that, if his 
conditions were not fulfilled, a breach between the two Powers 
would follow without further pourparlers. That Germany should 
be willing to relinquish a policy so loudly proclaimed and so popular 
with the nation at large, argued that the influence of the Imperial 
Chancellor and the politiques was for the moment predominant, 
and that he and his friends were beginning to envisage the future 
with a certain sobriety. 

But when we turn to the speeches of Bethmann-Hollweg during 
these months, we shall find no abatement of intransigence nor 
any just appraisement of the situation. He shrilly upbraided 
the Allies for refusing to recognize when they were beaten. He 
implored them to look at the map ; as if the extent of occupied 
territory constituted a decision. The more far-flung the lines of 
an army the greater its ultimate destruction if its strength fails. 
He repeated the legend about Germany having entered upon war 
solely for the protection of her unity and freedom. All she sought, 
he said, was a Germany so strong that no one in the future would 
be tempted to seek to destroy her. And then he preached his own 
doctrine of nationality. Did any one suppose that Germany 
would ever surrender to the rule of reactionary Russia the peoples 
she had liberated " between the Baltic Sea and the Volhynian 
swamps " ? As for Belgium, there could be no status quo ante. 
" Germany cannot again give over to Latinization the long-oppressed 
Flemish race." The British Prime Minister had declared that the 
first condition of peace was the complete and final destruction of 
the military power of Prussia. But that, said Bethmann-Hollweg, 
is the same thing as our unity and freedom. The confession was 
significant. It was precisely because Germany defined that unity 
and freedom in terms of Prussian militarism that peace could only 
come with the latter's destruction. 

Some weeks later Sir Edward Grey, in an interview with an 
American journalist, sketched another kind of freedom. " What 

* The same principle had been laid down in the American reply to the German 
Note of July 8, 1915. 



i 9 i6] IRELAND. 27 

we and our Allies are fighting for is a free Europe. We want 
a Europe free, not only from the domination of one nationality by 
another, but free from hectoring diplomacy and the peril of war ; 
free from the constant rattling of the sword in the scabbard, from 
perpetual talk of shining armour and War Lords. . . . What 
Prussia proposes is Prussian supremacy. She proposes a Europe 
modelled and ruled by Prussia. She is to dispose of the liberties 
of her neighbours and of us all. We say that life on those terms 
is intolerable. . . . Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg affirms that 
Great Britain wants to destroy ' united and free Germany.' We 
never were smitten with any such madness. We should be glad 
to see the German people free, as we ourselves want to be free, 
and as we want the other nationalities of Europe and of the world 
to be free. It belongs to the rudiments of political science, it is 
abundantly taught by history, that you cannot enslave a people 
and make a success of the job — that you cannot kill a people's 
soul by foreign despotism and brutality. We aspire to embark 
upon no such course of folly and futility towards another nation. 
We believe that the German people, when once the dreams of 
world empire cherished by pan-Germanism are brought to nought, 
will insist upon the control of its Government ; and in this lies 
the hope of secure freedom and national independence in Europe. 
. . . The Prussian authorities have apparently but one idea of 
peace — an iron peace imposed upon other nations by German 
supremacy. They do not understand that free men and free nations 
will rather die than submit to that ambition, and that there can be 
no end to war till it is defeated and renounced." 

In a chronicle of war domestic politics are only to be touched 
on in so far as they have a bearing on the campaign. But it is 
necessary to devote a short space to one episode, the roots of which 
lay deep in old political controversies — an adventure which, as it 
happened, ended in a fiasco, but which in its inception was definitely 
linked to the main struggle. Fruitless volumes might be written 
in an endeavour to trace the full historical origin of the Irish 
rebellion of Easter week, 1916. So far five hundred years of experi- 
ments had failed to make Ireland an integral part of Britain. 
There had been opportunities — golden opportunities some of them 
— but they had been missed or declined. Till half a century ago 
Ireland had been penalized ; since then she had been partly scolded 
and partly coddled ; but the treatment had always been differential. 
No opportunity had been given for the land to grow up into that 



28 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [April 

equal and like-minded partnership which means unity as well as 
union. As a consequence Britain had grown weary of the subject, 
and had almost relinquished the attempt in despair. The air had 
become thick with paradox and sentiment ; the Irishman whom 
Britain despaired of, the Englishman whom Ireland detested, 
were alike creatures of an imaginative convention ; the realities of 
national character could not be discerned through the mist of 
propaganda. Sane men had reached the conclusion that any 
course would be better than to leave Ireland to be angled for by 
British political parties and made the gambling counter in a worth- 
less game. If an incorporating union had failed, there might remain 
the chance of a looser federal tie, under which the Irish people 
could attain that national maturity which had hitherto been denied 
them. But while it is hard to unite, it is often not less difficult 
to disentangle, and with the first talk of a separatist policy it 
became clear that Ireland was not, strictly speaking, a unit at all. 
If three-fourths of the land were ready to renounce the incorporating 
union, the strong and serious Scoto-Irish stock of the North was 
not less resolved to cling to it. 

As we have seen, the outbreak of the war with Germany called 
a truce between the official combatants — a truce honourably ob- 
served by the respective leaders. Sir Edward Carson and Mr. 
Redmond flung themselves into the work of recruiting, and Ireland's 
well-wishers hoped that the partnership of North and South in the 
field might bring about a sense of a common nationality. Germany 
had counted much on Irish disloyalty and disunion. Her merchants 
had supplied arms on the most moderate terms to Ulstermen and 
Nationalists alike, and when, at the end of July 1914, a riot broke 
out in Dublin and British troops came into conflict with the mob, 
one of her principal agents had telegraphed that the hour had struck. 
As matters shaped themselves, her anticipation was falsified. 
But as the months passed it became apparent that there were 
certain smouldering ashes in Ireland which, judiciously fanned, 
might kindle into a blaze. Treason was preached openly by word 
and pen, and little notice was taken of it by the authorities. Recruit- 
ing was obstructed with impunity to the obstructors. German 
money was spent freely, and a nucleus of disaffection was found 
in the organization called Sinn Fein, which owed no allegiance to 
any of the recognized Irish parties. 

Sinn Fein — which means " Ourselves " — was a body founded 
some sixteen years before by a section of extreme Nationalists, 
who had lost faith in the Irish Parliamentary party. It advocated 



1916] ROGER CASEMENT. 29 

as its aim something not unlike Austro-Hungarian dualism, and as 
means passive resistance to all British interference, a boycott of 
British goods, and — with a wiser inspiration — the development of 
Irish crafts and industries and a distinctive Irish literature. For long 
it was a harmless academic movement, much frowned on by the 
politicians, and drawing its strength chiefly from the enthusiasts 
of Irish art and poetry. In a loose and incoherent way it stood for 
the same ideal as Sir Horace Plunkett, who urged his countrymen 
to find salvation in their own efforts rather than in the caprices of 
the parliamentary game. But after the outbreak of war it took 
to itself sinister allies, the extremists came to the top, and the spirit 
of the organization became definitely anti-British. The Irish 
Government, in spite of repeated warnings, did little or nothing 
to check the movement. Mr. Birrell, the Chief Secretary, had 
consistently adopted the principle that till Home Rule arrived 
no rule was the best substitute, and his Under-secretary shared 
these enlightened views. 

Sir Roger Casement, formerly a British consular officer, who had 
before the war identified himself with the extreme Nationalist party, 
presently left for Germany, where he hotly espoused the German 
cause. He was given the task of going round the prisoners' camps 
in the attempt to form an Irish Brigade, but to the eternal glory 
of the Irish soldier his overtures met for the most part with scorn 
and derision. Ultimately Germany grew tired of her ally, and 
called on him to make good his promise of raising an Irish revolt. 
She had no confidence in the success of the adventure, but she 
hoped that sufficient din would be raised to attract a number of 
British troops to Ireland, and she was prepared to support the 
gambler's throw with a bombardment by her battle-cruiser squad- 
ron at some point on the East Anglian coast. Casement was in a 
tragic quandary. Futile and suspect, he was forced by his cynical 
employers into an enterprise which he knew must fail, and in the 
failure of which he would assuredly find his death. 

Late on the evening of 20th April a German vessel, disguised 
as a Dutch trader and laden with arms, together with a German 
submarine, arrived off the Kerry coast, not far from Tralee. Every 
detail of their voyage from the day they left Germany was known 
to our Naval Intelligence Department. The vessel was stopped 
by a British patrol boat and ordered to follow to Queenstown 
harbour. On the way she hoisted the German flag and sank herself, 
her crew being taken prisoners. Meantime Sir Roger Casement 
and two companions were put ashore from the submarine in a 



30 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [April 

collapsible boat. The local Sinn Feiners failed to meet them, and 
Casement was arrested early on Good Friday morning, 21st April, 
and taken to England.* 

The capture of their leader upset the plans of the rebels in 
Dublin. On the Saturday the Easter manoeuvres of the Sinn Fein 
Volunteers were hastily cancelled ; but so much incriminating evi- 
dence was abroad that they decided that the boldest game was 
the safest. On Easter Monday, while a half-hearted attack was made 
on the Castle, armed bands seized St. Stephen's Green, the Post 
Office, the Law Courts, and part of Sackville Street. Troops were 
hastily brought in from the Curragh, field batteries shelled the 
rebel headquarters, a cordon of soldiers was stretched round the 
centre of the city, and martial law was proclaimed. On Wednes- 
day a Territorial brigade, the 178th, consisting of battalions of 
the Sherwood Foresters, arrived from England, and next day 
Sir John Maxwell, who had returned from the command in Egypt, 
was given plenary power to deal with the situation. Bit by bit 
the rebels were driven out of their strongholds, and by Saturday 
they were surrendering in batches. By Monday, 1st May, it was 
announced that the revolt in Dublin was crushed, and the outbreaks 
in Enniscorthy, Athenry, Clonmel, and other country districts 
were dying down. Fifteen of the leaders were tried by court- 
martial and shot, and a number of others condemned to varying 
terms of imprisonment. The military casualties were 521 of all 
ranks, including seventeen officers killed. There were nearly 
800 civilian casualties — many of them insurgents — including at 
least 180 dead. 

This tragic episode had small bearing on the war. From the 
start it was what Horace Walpole called the most futile of things, 
a " rebellion on the defensive." Wearers of the British uniform, 
some of them returning wounded from the front, were shot down 
in cold blood, and there were, unhappily, instances of the childish, 
light-hearted cruelty, not unknown in Irish history, in this tawdry 
Commune. Not thus was the conduct of the Wild Geese who 
fought in Clare's Brigade, or the Jacobites who followed the 
Chevalier to Culloden. Sympathy and respect must be denied to 
men who, however natural their estrangement from Britain, were 
fighting in virtual alliance with a Power which had proclaimed 
herself the enemy of all liberty and all nationality. But unhappily 
the barbarism was not wholly on one side. The British Govern- 

* He was ultimately tried for high treason and condemned to death, and was 
hanged on 3rd August. 



i 9 i6] THE EASTER REBELLION. 31 

ment dabbled alternately in mercy and severity. Either the law 
should have been strictly enforced, or — which would have been 
the wiser plan — so pitiful an escapade should have been followed 
by a generous amnesty, as in De Wet's rebellion. For the rising 
contained in its ranks a large number of febrile and perverted 
idealists, and it was partly the blame of Britain that such idealism 
was not turned to noble uses. The corner-boy who sniped in the 
Dublin streets was of the same stock as the men who forced the 
Gallipoli landing. Owing partly to ancient and partly to recent 
blunders, there was little chance of honest idealism being awak- 
ened. While all the world was at war Ireland alone stood aside, 
self-conscious and ashamed, and such a mood meant that the path 
was clear for the visionary and the knave. 

But while it is right to remember this plea in extenuation, it 
cannot be pushed too far. The Sinn Feiner was not, indeed, the 
whole of Ireland. Ulster was staunch as a rock, and there were 
many thousands, drawn from every corner of the South and West, 
who were true to their salt and fought in the British lines with a 
rare gallantry and resolution. Forty-eight hours after the Dublin 
rising began, the German troops opposite certain Irish bat- 
talions in France exhibited notices announcing that the English 
were shooting down their wives and brothers, and were answered 
with " Rule Britannia ! " A company of the Munster Fusiliers 
crossed no-man's-land that night, cut the enemy's wire, and 
brought off the placard in triumph. It was the answer of the 
best of Ireland, not only to Germany, but to those traitors who 
would defile her honour at home. But that best was a minority ; 
the bulk of the people stood sullenly aside ; Ireland as a whole 
had dropped out of the brotherhood of nations. Those who would 
excuse her apathy are faced with a cruel dilemma. Either she 
approved the German creed and was at variance with the Allied 
principles ; or, possessed with hatred of England and lacking in 
political vision, she did not discern the meaning of those principles, 
to which, had she grasped them, she would have assented. The 
first hypothesis is unthinkable, and the historian is forced back 
upon the second. The explanation of Ireland's action was not moral 
obliquity, but blinded eyes and a dulled mind. She was politically 
immature, and, whether we seek the reason in racial character 
or historic mischance, in that fact lay her tragedy. She was at 
variance, not with Britain, but with civilization. 



CHAPTER LV 

THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND. 

May 30-June 5, 1916. 

The British Grand Fleet on May 30 — Jellicoe's Principles of Naval War — Th« 
German Fleet sighted — The Battle-cruiser Action — Arrival and Deployment 
of Battle Fleet — The Race southward — The Night Action — British and Ger- 
man Losses — The Points in Dispute — Summary of Battle — Death of Lord 
Kitchener. 

From the opening of the war British seamen had been sustained 
by the hope that some day and somewhere they would meet the 
German High Sea Fleet in a battle in the open sea. It had been 
their hope since the hot August day when the great battleships 
disappeared from the eyes of watchers on the English shores. It 
had comforted them in the long months of waiting amid the winds 
and snows of the northern waters. Since the beginning of the 
year 1916 this hope had become a confident belief. There was no 
special ground for it, except the assumption that as the case of 
Germany became more difficult she would be forced to use every 
asset in the struggle. As the onslaught on Verdun grew more 
costly and fruitless, and as the armies of Russia began to stir with 
the approach of summer, it seemed that the hour for the gambler's 
throw might soon arrive. 

The long vigil was trying to the nerve and temper of every 
sailor, and in especial to the Battle Cruiser Fleet, which repre- 
sented the first line of British sea strength. It was the business 
of the battle cruisers to make periodical sweeps through the North 
Sea, and to be first upon the scene should the enemy appear. They 
were the advance guard, the corps de choc of the Grand Fleet ; 
they were the hounds which must close with the quarry and hold 
it till the hunters of the Battle Fleet arrived. Hence the task of 
their commander was one of peculiar anxiety and strain. At any 
moment the chance might come, so he must be sleeplessly watchful. 
He would have to make sudden and grave decisions, for it was 



1916] THE SWEEP OF 30th MAY. 33 

certain that the longed-for opportunity would have to be forced 
before it matured. The German hope was by attrition or some 
happy accident to wear down the superior British strength to an 
equality with their own. A rash act on the part of a British admiral 
might fulfil that hope ; but, on the other hand, without boldness, 
even rashness, Britain could not get to grips with her evasive foe. 
So far Sir David Beatty and the battle cruisers had not been for- 
tunate. From the shelter of the mine-strewn waters around Heli- 
goland Germany's warships made occasional excursions, for they 
could not rot for ever in harbour ; her battle cruisers had more 
than once raided the English coasts ; her battleships had made 
stately progresses in short circles in the vicinity of the Jutland 
and Schleswig shores. But so far Sir David Beatty had been 
unlucky. At the Battle of the Bight of Heligoland on August 28, 
1914, his great ships had encountered nothing more serious than 
enemy light cruisers. At the time of the raid on Hartlepool in 
December of the same year he had just failed, owing to fog, to 
intercept the raiders. In the Battle of the Dogger Bank on Jan- 
uary 24, 1915, the damage done to his flagship had prevented him 
destroying the whole German fleet of battle cruisers. It was clear 
that the enemy, if caught in one of his hurried sorties, would not 
fight unless he had a clear advantage. Hence, if the battle was 
to be joined at all, it looked as if the first stage, at all events, must 
be fought by Britain against odds. 

On Tuesday afternoon, 30th May, the bulk of the British Grand 
Fleet left its bases on one of its customary sweeps. On this occa- 
sion it put to sea with hope, for the Admiralty had informed it that 
a large German movement was contemplated. It sailed in two 
sections. To the north were twenty-four Dreadnoughts of the Battle 
Fleet under Sir John Jellicoe — the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Battle Squad- 
rons ; one Battle Cruiser Squadron, the 3rd, under Rear-Admiral 
the Honourable Horace Hood ; the 1st Cruiser Squadron, under 
Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot ; the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, 
under Rear-Admiral Heath ; the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, under 
Commodore Le Mesurier ; and the 4th, nth, and 12th Destroyer 
Flotillas. Farther south moved the Battle Cruiser Fleet, under 
Sir David Beatty — the six vessels of the 1st and 2nd Battle Cruiser 
Squadrons, under Rear-Admiral Brock and Rear-Admiral Paken- 
ham ; the 5th Battle Squadron, four vessels of the Queen Elizabeth 
class, under Rear-Admiral Evan-Thomas ; the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd 
Light Cruiser Squadrons; and the 1st, 9th, 10th, and 13th Destroyer 
Flotillas. It will be noticed that the two sections of the Grand 



34 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

Fleet were not sharply defined by battleships and battle cruisers, 
for Sir John Jellicoe had with him one squadron of battle cruisers, 
and Sir David Beatty had one squadron of the largest battleships. 
On the morning of the last day of May the German High Sea Fleet 
also put to sea, and sailed north a hundred miles or so from the 
Jutland coast. First went Admiral von Hipper's battle cruisers, 
five in number, with the usual complement of cruisers and destroyers. 
Following them came the Battle Fleet, under Admiral von Scheer 
— fifteen Dreadnoughts and six older vessels, accompanied by three 
cruiser divisions and seven torpedo flotillas. With a few excep- 
tions, all the capital ships of the German navy were present in 
this expedition. We know the purpose of Scheer from his own 
narrative. He hoped to engage and destroy a portion of the 
British fleet which might be isolated from the rest, for German 
public opinion demanded some proof of naval activity now that 
the submarine campaign had languished. 

Sir John Jellicoe, as early as October 1914, had taken into review 
the new conditions of naval warfare, and had worked out a plan 
to be adopted when he met the enemy's fleet — a plan approved 
not only by his flag officers but by successive Admiralty Boards. 
The German aim, as he forecast it, would be to fight a retreating 
action, and lead him into an area where they could make the fullest 
use of mines, torpedoes, and submarines. He was aware of the 
weakness of his own fleet in destroyers and cruisers, and was 
resolved not to play the enemy's game. Hence he might be forced 
to give the appearance of refusing battle and not closing with a 
retreating foe. " I intend to pursue what is, in my considered 
opinion, the proper course to defeat and annihilate the enemy's 
battle fleet without regard to uninstructed opinion or criticism. 
The situation is a difficult one. It is quite within the bounds of 
possibility that half of our battle fleet might be disabled by under- 
water attack before the guns opened fire at all, if a false move is 
made, and I feel that I must constantly bear in mind the great 
probability of such attack and be prepared tactically to prevent 
its success." The German methods had, therefore, from the start 
a profound moral effect in determining the bias of the Commander- 
in-Chief's mind. A second principle was always in his thoughts, 
a principle derived from his view of the general strategy of the 
whole campaign, for Jellicoe had a wider survey than that of the 
professional sailor. It was no question of a partiality for the 
defensive rather than the offensive. The British Grand Fleet, in 
his view, was the pivot of the Allied strength. So long as it existed 




BATTLE OF JUTLAND : THE AREA OF OPERATIONS. 



& 



W. 



,R 3 qO TO A3flA 3HT : OMAJTUU TO 3JTTA8 



1916] HIPPER SIGHTED. 35 

and kept the sea, it fulfilled its purpose, it had already achieved 
its main task ; if it were seriously crippled, the result would be 
the loss not of one weapon among many, but of the main Allied 
armoury. It was, therefore, the duty of a wise commander to 
bring the enemy to battle — but on his own terms ; no considera- 
tion of purely naval results, no desire for personal glory, must be 
allowed to obscure the essential duty of his solemn trusteeship. 
The psychology of the Commander-in-Chief must be understood, 
for it played a vital part in the coming action. 

The fourth week of May had been hot and bright on shore, 
with low winds and clear heavens ; but on the North Sea there lay 
a light summer haze, and on the last day of the month loose grey 
clouds were beginning to overspread the sky. Sir David Beatty, 
having completed his sweep to the south, had turned north about 
2 p.m., according to instructions, to rejoin Jellicoe. The sea was 
dead calm, like a sheet of glass. His light cruiser squadrons formed 
a screen in front of him from east to west. But at 2.20 p.m. the 
Galatea (Commodore Alexander-Sinclair), the flagship of the 1st 
Light Cruiser Squadron, signalled enemy vessels to the east. Beatty 
at once altered course to south-south-east, the direction of the 
Horn Reef, in order to get between the enemy and his base. 

Five minutes later the Galatea signalled again that the enemy 
was in force, and no mere handful of light cruisers. At 2.35 the 
watchers in the Lion saw a heavy pall of smoke to the eastward, 
and the course was accordingly altered to that direction, and 
presently to the north-east. The 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squad- 
rons spread in a screen before the battle cruisers. A seaplane was 
sent up from the Engadine at 3.8, and at 3.30 its first report was 
received. Flying at a height of 900 feet, within two miles of 
hostile light cruisers, it was able to identify the enemy. Sir 
David Beatty promptly formed line of battle, and a minute later 
came in sight of Hipper's five battle cruisers. Evan-Thomas and 
the 5th Battle Squadron were at the time more than five miles 
away, and, since their speed was less than that of the battle cruisers, 
would obviously be late for the fight ; but Beatty did not wait, 
considering, not unnaturally, that his six battle cruisers were 
more than a match for Hipper. 

I. 

Of all human contests, a naval battle makes the greatest demands 
upon the resolution and gallantry of the men and the skill and 



36 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

coolness of the commanders. In a land fight the general may be 
thirty miles behind the line of battle, but the admiral is in the 
thick of it. He takes the same risks as the ordinary sailor, and, as 
often as not, his flagship leads the fleet. For three hundred years 
it had been the special pride of Britain that her ships were ready 
to meet any enemy at any time on any sea. If this proud boast 
were no longer hers, then her glory would indeed have departed. 

At 3.30 that afternoon Sir David Beatty had to make a momen- 
tous decision. The enemy was in all likelihood falling back upon 
his main Battle Fleet, and every mile the British admiral moved 
forward brought him nearer to an unequal combat. For the 
moment the odds were in his favour, since he had six battle cruisers 
against Hipper's five, as well as the 5th Battle Squadron, but 
presently the odds might be heavily against him. He was faced 
with the alternative of conducting a half-hearted running fight 
with Hipper, to be broken off before the German Battle Fleet 
was reached, or of engaging closely and hanging on even after the 
junction with Scheer had been made. In such a fight the atmos- 
pheric conditions would compel him to close the range and so lose 
the advantage of his heavier guns, and his own battle cruisers as 
regarded turret armour and deck-plating were far less stoutly 
protected than those of the enemy, which had the armour of a 
first-class battleship. Sir David Beatty was never for a moment 
in doubt. He chose the course which was not only heroic, but 
right on every ground of strategy. Twice already by a narrow 
margin he had missed bringing the German capital ships to action. 
He was resolved that now he would forgo no chance which the 
fates might send. 

Hipper was steering east-south-east in the direction of his base. 
Beatty changed his course to conform, and the fleets were now 
some 23,000 yards apart. The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron took 
station ahead with the destroyers of the 9th and 13th Flotillas ; 
then came the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, led by the Lion ; then 
the 2nd ; and then Evan-Thomas, with the 5th Battle Squadron. 
Beatty formed his ships on a line of bearing to clear the smoke — 
that is, each ship took station on a compass bearing from the flag- 
ship, of which they were diagonally astern. At 3.48 the action 
began, both sides opening fire at the same moment. The range 
was 18,500 yards, the direction was generally south-south-east, 
and both fleets were moving at full speed, an average perhaps of 
twenty-five knots. The wind was from the south-east, the visi- 
bility for the British was good, and the sun was behind them. 



1916] THE BATTLE-CRUISER ACTION. 37 

They had ten capital ships to the German five. The omens seemed 
propitious for victory. 

In all battles there is a large element of sheer luck and naked 
caprice. In the first stage, when Beatty had the odds in his 
favour, he was destined to suffer his chief losses. A shot struck 
the Indefatigable (Captain Sowerby) in a vital place, the magazine 
exploded, and in two minutes she turned over and sank. The 
German gunnery at the start was uncommonly good ; it was only 
later, when things went ill with them, that their shooting fell off. 
Meantime the 5th Battle Squadron had come into action at a 
range of 20,000 yards, and engaged the rear enemy ships. From 
4.15 onward for half an hour the duel between the battle cruisers 
was intense, and the enemy fire gradually grew less rapid as ours 
increased. At 4.18 the German battle cruiser third in the line was 
seen to be on fire. Presently the Queen Mary (Captain Prowse) 
was hit, and blew up. She had been at the Battle of the Bight of 
Heligoland ; she was perhaps the best gunnery ship in the fleet ; 
and her loss left Beatty with only four battle cruisers. Happily 
she did not go down before her superb marksmanship had taken 
toll of the enemy. The haze was now settling on the waters, and 
all that could be seen of the foe was a blurred outline. 

Meantime, as the great vessels raced southwards, the lighter 
craft were fighting a battle of their own. Eight destroyers of the 
13th Flotilla — the Nestor, Nomad, Nicator, Narborough, Pelican, 
Petard, Obdurate, and Nerissa — together with the Moorsom and 
Morris of the 10th, and the Turbulent and Termagant of the 9th, 
moved out at 4.15 for a torpedo attack, at the same time as the 
enemy destroyers advanced for the same purpose. The British 
flotilla at once came into action at close quarters with fifteen 
destroyers and a light cruiser of the enemy, and beat them back 
with the loss of two destroyers. This combat had made some of 
them drop astern, so a full torpedo attack was impossible. The 
Nestor, Nomad, and Nicator, under Commander the Honourable 
E. B. S. Bingham, fired two torpedoes at the German battle cruisers, 
and were sorely battered themselves by the German secondary 
armament. They clung to their task till the turning movement 
came which we shall presently record, and the result of it was to 
bring them within close range of many enemy battleships. Both 
the Nestor and the Nomad were sunk, and only the Nicator regained 
the flotilla. Some of the others fired their torpedoes, and appar- 
ently the rear German ship was struck. The gallantry of these 
smaller craft cannot be overpraised. That subsidiary battle, 



38 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

fought under the canopy of the duel of the greater ships, was one 
of the most heroic episodes of the action. 

We have seen that the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron was scout- 
ing ahead of the battle cruisers. At 4.38 the Southampton (Com- 
modore Goodenough) reported the German battle fleet ahead. 
Instantly Beatty recalled the destroyers, and at 4.42 Scheer was 
sighted to the south-east. Beatty put his helm to port and swung 
round to a northerly course. From the pursuer he had now become 
the pursued, and his aim was to lead the combined enemy fleets 
towards Sir John Jellicoe. The 5th Battle Squadron, led by 
Evan-Thomas in the Barham, now hard at it with Hipper, was 
ordered to follow suit. Meanwhile the Southampton and the 2nd 
Light Cruiser Squadron continued forward to observe, and did 
not turn till within 13,000 yards of Scheer's battleships, and under 
their fire. At five o'clock Beatty 's battle cruisers were steering 
north, the Fearless and the 1st Destroyer Flotilla leading, the 1st 
and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons on his starboard bow, and the 
2nd Light Cruiser Squadron on his port quarter. Behind him came 
Evan-Thomas, attended by the Champion and the destroyers of 
the 13th Flotilla. 

It is not difficult to guess at the thoughts of Scheer and Hipper. 
They had had the good fortune to destroy two of Beatty's battle 
cruisers, and now that their whole fleet was together they hoped 
to destroy more. The weather conditions that afternoon made 
Zeppelins useless, and accordingly they knew nothing of Jellicoe's 
presence in the north, though they must have surmised that he 
would appear sooner or later. They believed they had caught 
Beatty cruising on his own account, and that the gods had delivered 
him into their hands. From 4.45 till 6 o'clock to the mind of the 
German admirals the battle resolved itself into a British flight 
and a German pursuit. 

The case presented itself otherwise to Sir David Beatty, who 
knew that the British Battle Fleet was some fifty miles off, and 
that it was his business to coax the Germans towards it. He 
was now facing heavy odds, eight capital ships as against at 
least nineteen, but he had certain real advantages. He had the 
pace of the enemy, and this enabled him to overlap their line and 
to get his battle cruisers on their bow. In the race southwards 
he had driven his ships at full speed, and consequently his squadron 
had been in two divisions, for Evan-Thomas's battleships had not 
the pace of the battle cruisers. But when he headed north he 
reduced his pace, and there was no longer a tactical division of 



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1916] JELLICOE ARRIVES. 39 

forces. The eight British ships were now one fighting unit. It 
was Beatty's intention to nurse his pursuers into the arms of 
Jellicoe, and for this his superior speed gave him a vital weapon. 
Once the northerly course had been entered upon the enemy could 
not change direction, except in a very gradual curve, without 
exposing himself to enfilading fire from the British battle cruisers 
at the head of the line. Though in a sense he was the pursuer, 
and so had the initiative, yet as a matter of fact his movements 
were mainly controlled by Sir David Beatty's will. That the 
British admiral should have seen and reckoned with this fact in 
the confusion of a battle against odds is not the least of the proofs 
of his sagacity and fortitude. 

Unfortunately the weather changed for the worse. The British 
ships were silhouetted against a clear western sky, but the enemy 
was shrouded in mist, and only at rare intervals showed dim shapes 
through the gloom. The range was about 14,000 yards. The two 
leading ships of Evan-Thomas's squadron were assisting the battle 
cruisers, while his two rear ships were engaged with the first vessels 
of the German 3rd Battle Squadron, which developed an unex- 
pected speed. As before, the lesser craft played a gallant part. 
At 5.5 the Onslow and the Moresby, which had been helping the 
Engadine with the seaplane, took station on the engaged bow of 
the Lion, and the latter struck with a torpedo the sixth ship in 
the German line and set it on fire. She then passed south to clear 
the range of smoke, and took station on the 5th Battle Squadron. 
At 5.33 Sir David Beatty's course was north-north-east, and he 
was gradually hauling round to the north-eastward. He knew 
that the Battle Fleet could not be far off, and he was heading the 
Germans on an easterly course, so that Jellicoe should be able to 
strike to the best advantage. 

At 5.50 on his port bow he sighted British cruisers, and six 
minutes later had a glimpse of the leading ships of the Battle 
Fleet five miles to the north. He at once changed course to east 
and increased speed, bringing the range down to 12,000 yards. 
He was forcing the enemy to a course on which Jellicoe might 
overwhelm him. 

II. 

The first stage was now over, the isolated fight of the battle 
cruisers, and we must turn to the doings of the Battle Fleet itself. 
When Sir John Jellicoe at the same time as Beatty took in the 
Galatea's signals, he was distant from the battle cruisers between 



4 o A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

fifty and sixty miles. He at once proceeded at full speed on a 
course south-east by south to join his colleague. The engine rooms 
made heroic efforts, and the whole fleet maintained a speed in 
excess of the trial speeds of some of the older vessels. It was no 
easy task to effect a junction at the proper moment, since there 
was an inevitable difference in estimating the rendezvous by " reck- 
oning," and some of Beatty's messages, dispatched in the stress 
of action, were obscure. Moreover, the thick weather made it 
hard to recognize which ships were enemy and which were British 
when the moment of meeting came. What a spectacle must that 
strange rendezvous have presented, had there been any eye to 
see it as a whole ! Two great navies on opposite courses at high 
speeds driving toward each other : the German unaware of what 
was approaching ; the British Battle Fleet, mile upon mile of steel 
giants whose van was far out of sight of its rear, twelve miles 
wrong in its reckoning, and so making contact almost by accident 
in a drift of smoke and sea-haze ! 

The 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, under Rear-Admiral Hood, 
led the Battle Fleet. At 5.30 Hood observed flashes of gun-fire 
and heard the sound of guns to the south-westward. He sent 
the Chester (Captain Lawson) to investigate, and at 5.45 this ship 
engaged three or four enemy light cruisers, rejoining the 3rd Battle 
Cruiser Squadron at 6.5. Hood was too far to the south and east, 
so he turned north-west, and five minutes later sighted Beatty. 
At 6. 1 1 he received orders to take station ahead, and at 6.22 he 
led the line, " bringing his squadron into action ahead in a most 
inspiring manner, worthy of his great naval ancestors." He was 
now only 8,000 yards from the enemy, and under a desperate fire. 
At 6.34 his flagship, the Invincible, was sunk, and with her perished 
an admiral who in faithfulness and courage must rank with the 
nobler figures of British naval history. This was at the head of the 
British line. Meantime the 1st and 2nd Cruiser Squadrons accom- 
panying the Battle Fleet had also come into action. The Defence 
and the Warrior had crippled an enemy light cruiser, the Wiesbaden, 
about six o'clcok. The Canterbury, which was in company with 
the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, had engaged enemy light cruisers 
and destroyers which were attacking the destroyers Shark, Acasta, 
and Christopher — an engagement in which the Shark was sunk. 
At 6.16 the 1st Cruiser Squadron, driving in the enemy light 
cruisers, had got into a position between the German and British 
Battle Fleets, since Sir Robert Arbuthnot was not aware of the 
enemy's approach, owing to the mist, until he was in close prox- 



1916] DEPLOYMENT OF BATTLE FLEET. 41 

imity to them. The Defence perished, and with it Arbuthnot. 
The Warrior passed to the rear disabled, and the Black Prince 
received damage which led later to her destruction. 

Meantime Beatty's lighter craft had also been hotly engaged. 
At 6.5 the Onslow sighted an enemy light cruiser 6,000 yards off, 
which was trying to attack the Lion with torpedoes, and at once 
closed and engaged at a range from 4,000 to 2,000 yards. She 
then closed the German battle cruisers, but after firing one torpedo 
she was struck amidships by a heavy shell. Undefeated, she fired 
her remaining three torpedoes at the enemy Battle Fleet. She was 
taken in tow by the Defender, who was herself damaged, and in 
spite of constant shelling the two gallant destroyers managed to 
retire in safety. Again, the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron, under 
Rear-Admiral Napier, which was well ahead of the enemy on 
Beatty's starboard bow, attacked with torpedoes at 6.25, the 
Falmouth and the Yarmouth especially distinguishing themselves. 
One German battle cruiser was observed to be hit and fall out 
of the line. 

The period between 6 o'clock and 6.40 saw the first crisis of the 
battle. The six divisions of the Grand Fleet had approached in 
six parallel columns, and it was Jellicoe's business to deploy as 
soon as he could locate the enemy. A few minutes after six he 
realized that the Germans were on his starboard side, and in close 
proximity ; he resolved to form line of battle on the port wing 
column on a course south-east by east, and the order went out at 
6.16. His reasons were — to avoid danger in the mist from the 
German destroyers ahead of their Battle Fleet ; to prevent the 
Marlborough's division on the starboard wing from receiving the 
concentrated fire of the German Battle Fleet before the remaining 
divisions came into line ; and to obviate the necessity of turning 
again to port to avoid the " overlap " which formation on the 
starboard wing would give the enemy van. This decision has been 
vehemently criticized, but without justification. It may well be 
doubted whether to have formed line towards instead of away from 
the enemy would have substantially lessened the time of closing 
the enemy, and it would beyond doubt have exposed the British 
starboard division to a dangerous concentration of fire. As it 
was, the Hercules in the starboard division was in action within 
four minutes. The movement took twenty minutes to perform, 
and during that time the situation was highly delicate. But on the 
whole it was brilliantly carried out, and by 6.38 Scheer had given up 
his attempt to escape to the eastward, and was bending due south. 



42 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

At 5.40 Hipper, under pressure from Evan-Thomas and the 
destroyers, had turned six points to starboard ; at 5.55, being now 
overlapped by Beatty, who had closed the range, he turned sharp 
east ; at six he bent south ; at 6.12 he went about on a N.N.E. 
course ; and about 6.15 he came in contact with Hood's battle 
cruisers, and realized that Jellicoe had arrived. For a quarter of 
an hour there was heavy fighting, during which his flagship, the 
Lutzow, was badly damaged, and the Derfflinger silenced. By 6.33 
he was steering due south, followed by Scheer. The turn on 
interior lines gave him the lead of Beatty, who bent southward 
on a parallel course. The 1st and 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadrons 
led ; then the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron ; there followed the 
six divisions of the Battle Fleet — first the 2nd Battle Squadron, 
under Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Jerram ; then the 4th, under 
Vice-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee, containing Sir John Jellicoe's 
flagship, the Iron Duke ; and finally the 1st, under Vice-Admiral 
Sir Cecil Burney. Evan-Thomas's 5th Battle Squadron, which had 
up to now been with Beatty, intended to form ahead of the Battle 
Fleet, but the nature of the deployment compelled it to form 
astern. The Warspite had her steering-gear damaged, and drifted 
towards the enemy's line under a furious cannonade. For a little 
she involuntarily interposed herself between the Warrior and the 
enemy's fire. She was presently extricated ; but it is a curious 
proof of the caprices of fortune in battle that while a single shot 
at the beginning of the action sank the Indefatigable, this intense 
bombardment did the Warspite little harm. Only one gun turret 
was hit, and her engines were uninjured. 

At 6.40, then, the two British fleets were united, the German 
line was headed off on the east, and Beatty and Jellicoe were work- 
ing their way between the enemy and his home ports. Scheer 
and Hipper were now greatly outnumbered, and it seemed as if 
the British admirals had won a complete strategic success. But 
the fog was deepening, and the night was falling, and such condi- 
tions favoured the German tactics of retreat. 



III. 

The third stage of the battle — roughly, two hours long — was 
an intermittent duel between the main fleets. Scheer had no wish 
to linger, and he moved southwards at his best speed, with the 
British line shepherding him on the east. He was definitely declin- 
ing battle. Beatty had succeeded in crumpling up the head of 



British Battleships in Action at the Battle of Jutland 
(about 6.30 p.m., May 31, 1916) 

From a painting by Robert H. Smith 



i 9 i6] THE CHASE SOUTHWARD. 43 

the German line, and its battleships were now targets for the 
majority of his battle cruisers. The visibility was becoming 
greatly reduced. The mist no longer merely veiled the targets, 
but often shut them out altogether. This not only made gunnery 
extraordinarily difficult, but prevented the British from keeping 
proper contact with the enemy. At the same time, such light as 
there was was more favourable to Beatty and Jellicoe than to 
Scheer. The German ships showed up at intervals against the 
sunset, as did Cradock's cruisers off Coronel, and gave the British 
gunners their chance. 

Hipper and his battle cruisers were in serious difficulties. At 
6.15 he was compelled to leave the Liitzow, and since by this time 
neither the Derfflinger nor the Seydlitz was fit for flag duties, he 
remained in a destroyer till a lull in the firing enabled him to board 
the Molike. From seven o'clock onward Beatty was steering 
south, and gradually bearing round to south-west and west, in 
order to get into touch with the enemy. At 7.14 (Scheer having 
ordered Hipper to close the British again) he sighted them at a 
range of 15,000 yards — three battle cruisers and two battleships 
of the Konig class. The sun had now fallen behind the western 
clouds, and at 7.18 Beatty increased speed to twenty-two knots, and 
re-engaged. The enemy showed signs of great distress, one ship 
being on fire and one dropping astern. The destroyers at the head 
of the line emitted volumes of smoke, which covered the ships 
behind with a pall, and enabled them at 7.37 to turn away and pass 
out of Beatty's sight. At that moment he signalled Jellicoe, 
asking that the van of the battleships should follow the battle 
cruisers. At 7.58 the 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons were 
ordered to sweep westwards and locate the head of the enemy's 
line, and at 8.20 Beatty altered course to west to support. He 
located three battleships, and engaged them at 10,000 yards range. 
The Lion repeatedly hit the leading ship, which turned away in 
flames with a heavy list to port, while the Princess Royal set fire 
to one battleship, and the third ship, under the attack of the New 
Zealand and the Indomitable, hauled out of the line heeling over 
and on fire. Once more the mist descended and enveloped the 
enemy, who passed out of sight to the west. 

To turn to the Battle Fleet, which had become engaged during 
deployment with the leading German battleships. It first took 
course south-east by east ; but as it endeavoured to close it bore 
round to starboard. The aim of Scheer now was escape and nothing 
but escape, and every device was used to screen his ships from 



44 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

British sight. Owing partly to the smoke palls and the clouds 
emitted by the destroyers, but mainly to the mist, it was never 
possible to see more than four or five enemy ships at a time. The 
ranges were, roughly, from 9,000 to 12,000 yards, and the action 
began with the British Battle Fleet in divisions on the enemy's 
bow. Under the British attack the enemy constantly turned 
away, and this had the effect of bringing Jellicoe to a position of 
less advantage on the enemy's quarter. At the same time it put the 
British fleet between Scheer and his base. In the short periods, 
however, during which the Germans were visible, they received a 
heavy fire and were constantly hit. Some were observed to haul 
out of line, and at least one was seen to sink. The German return 
fire at this stage was poor, and the damage caused to our battleships 
was trifling. Scheer relied for defence chiefly on torpedo attacks, 
which were favoured by the weather and the British position. A 
following fleet can make small use of torpedoes, as the enemy is 
moving away from it ; while the enemy, on the other hand, has 
the advantage in this weapon, since his targets are moving towards 
him. Many German torpedoes were fired, but the only battleship 
hit was the Marlborough, which was, happily, able to remain in 
line and continue the action. 

The 1st Battle Squadron, under Sir Cecil Burney, came into 
action at 6.17 with the 3rd German Battle Squadron at a range of 
11,000 yards ; but as the fight continued the range decreased to 
9,000 yards. This squadron received most of the enemy's return 
fire, but it administered severe punishment. Take the case of 
the Marlborough (Captain George P. Ross). At 6.17 she began by 
firing seven salvos at a ship of the Kaiser class ; she then engaged 
a cruiser and a battleship ; at 6.54 she was hit by a torpedo ; at 
7.3 she reopened the action ; and at 7.12 fired fourteen salvos at 
a ship of the Konig class, hitting her repeatedly till she turned 
out of line. The Colossus, of the same squadron, was hit, but 
only slightly damaged, and several other ships were frequently 
straddled by the enemy's fire. The 4th Battle Squadron, in the 
centre, was engaged with ships of the Konig and the Kaiser classes, 
as well as with battle cruisers and light cruisers. Sir John Jelli- 
coe's flagship, the Iron Duke, engaged one of the Konig class at 
6.30 at a range of 12,000 yards, quickly straddled it, and hit it 
repeatedly from the second salvo onwards till it turned away. The 
2nd Battle Squadron in the van, under Sir Thomas Jerram, was 
in action with German battleships from 6.30 to 7.20, and engaged 
also a damaged battle cruiser. 



I 9 i6] THE NIGHT BATTLE. 45 

At 7.15, when the range had been closed and line ahead finally 
formed, came the main torpedo attack by German destroyers. In 
order to frustrate what he regarded as the most serious danger, 
Jellicoe ordered a turn of two points to port, and presently a further 
two points, opening the range by about 1,750 yards. This caused 
a certain loss of time, and Scheer seized the occasion to turn well 
to starboard, with the result that contact between the battle fleets 
was presently lost. Jellicoe received Beatty's appeal at 7.54, and 
ordered the 2nd Battle Squadron to follow the battle cruisers. But 
mist and smoke-screens and failing light were fatal hindrances to 
the pursuit, and even Beatty had soon to give up hope of sinking 
Hipper's damaged remnant. 

By nine o'clock the enemy had completely disappeared, and 
darkness was falling fast. He had been veering round to a westerly 
course, and the whole British fleet lay between him and his home 
ports. It was a strategic situation which, but for the fog and the 
coming of night, would have meant his complete destruction. Sir 
John Jellicoe had now to make a difficult decision. It was impos- 
sible for the British fleet to close in the darkness in a sea swarming 
with torpedo craft and possibly with submarines, and accordingly 
he was compelled to make dispositions for the night which would 
ensure the safety of his ships and provide for a renewal of the 
action at dawn. For a night action the Germans were the better 
equipped as to their fire system, their recognition signals, and 
their searchlights, and he did not feel justified in presenting the 
enemy with a needless advantage. On this point Beatty, to the 
south and westward, was in full agreement. In his own words : 
" I manoeuvred to remain between the enemy and his base, placing 
our flotillas in a position in which they would afford protection to 
the fleet from destroyer attack, and at the same time be favourably 
situated for attacking the enemy's heavier ships." He informed 
Jellicoe of his position and the bearing of the enemy, and turned 
to the course of the Battle Fleet. 



IV. 

Jellicoe moved the Battle Fleet on a southerly course, with its 
four squadrons in four parallel columns a mile apart, so as to keep 
in touch. The destroyer flotillas were disposed from west to east 
five miles astern. The battle cruisers and the cruisers lay to the 
west of the Battle Fleet ; the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron north 
of it; and the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron to the south. The 



46 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

main action was over, and Jellicoe was now wholly out of touch 
with the enemy. His light craft were ordered to attend the 
Battle Fleet and not to attempt to find touch ; hence he was 
in the position of a warder in the centre of a very broad gate, 
and an alert enemy had many opportunities of slipping past his 
flanks. 

The night battle was waged on the British side entirely by the 
lighter craft. It began by an attack on our destroyers by German 
light cruisers ; then at 10.20 an enemy cruiser and four light cruisers 
came into action with our 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, losing the 
Frauenlob and severely handling the Southampton and the Dublin. 
The 4th Destroyer Flotilla about 11.30 lost the Sparrowhawk, and 
later the Tipperary, but at midnight sunk the old battleship Pom- 
mem. The 12th Flotilla was in action between one and two in 
the morning, and torpedoed two enemy battleships. The 9th 
Flotilla lost the Turbulent, and after 2 a.m. the 13th Flotilla engaged 
four Deutschlands. The German ships made good their escape, 
but they lost in the process out of all proportion to the British 
light craft. No ships in the whole battle won greater glory than 
these. " They surpassed," wrote Sir John Jellicoe, "the very 
highest expectations that I had formed of them." An officer on 
one of the flotillas has described that uneasy darkness : " We 
couldn't tell what was happening. Every now and then out of 
the silence would come bang, bang, boom, as hard as it could go for 
ten minutes on end. The flash of the guns lit up the whole sky 
for miles and miles, and the noise was far more penetrating than 
by day. Then you would see a great burst of flame from some poor 
devil, as the searchlight switched on and off, and then perfect 
silence once more." The searchlights at times made the sea as 
white as marble, on which the destroyers moved " black," wrote 
an eye-witness, " as cockroaches on a floor." 

At earliest dawn on 1st June the British fleet, which was lying 
south and west of the Horn Reef, turned northwards to collect its 
light craft, and to search for the enemy. It was ready and eager 
to renew the battle, for it had still twenty-two battleships un- 
touched, and ample cruisers and light craft, while Scheer's command 
was scarcely any longer a fleet in being. But there was to be no 
second " Glorious First of June," for the enemy was not to be 
found. He had slipped in single ships astern of our fleet during 
the night, and was then engaged in moving homewards like a 
flight of wild duck that has been scattered by shot. He was 
greatly helped by the weather, which at dawn on 1st June was 



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DIAGRAM SHOWING 
TACTICS of the BATTLEFLEET 

BATTLE OF JUTLAND 

3J* r MAY. 1916 . 



m ■■ i ■■ ■ Shows track of the "IRON DUKE " 

or — .- ■-«-- * ••---■«-- fleet m single line ahead 

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1916] THE GERMAN CLAIMS. 47 

thicker than the night before, the visibility being less than four 
miles. About 3.30 a.m. a Zeppelin passed over the British fleet, 
and reported to Scheer the position of the British squadrons. 
All morning till eleven o'clock Sir John Jellicoe wa"ted on the 
battleground, watching the lines of approach to German ports, and 
attending the advent of the enemy. But no enemy came. " I 
was reluctantly compelled to the conclusion," wrote Sir John, 
" that the High Sea Fleet had returned into port." Till 1.15 p.m. 
the British fleet swept the seas, picking up survivors from some 
of our lost destroyers. After that hour waiting was useless, so 
the fleet sailed for its bases, which were reached next day, Friday, 
2nd June. There it fuelled and replenished with ammunition, 
and at 9.30 that evening was ready for further action. 

V. 

The German fleet, being close to its bases, was able to publish 
at once its own version of the battle. A resounding success was a 
political necessity for Germany, for she needed a fillip for her new 
loan, and it is likely that she would have claimed a victory if any 
remnant of her fleets had reached harbour. As it was, she was 
overjoyed at having escaped annihilation, and the magnitude of 
her jubilation may be taken as the measure of her fears. It is of 
the nature of a naval action that it gives ample scope for fiction. 
There are no spectators. Victory and defeat are not followed, as 
in a land battle, by a gain or loss of ground. A well-disciplined 
country with a strict censorship can frame any tale it pleases, and 
hold to it for months without fear of detection at home. Germany 
claimed at once a decisive success. According to her press the 
death-blow had been given to Britain's command of the sea. The 
Emperor soared into poetry. " The gigantic fleet of Albion, 
ruler of the seas, which, since Trafalgar, for a hundred years has 
imposed on the whole world a bond of sea tyranny, and has sur- 
rounded itself with a nimbus of invincibleness, came into the 
field. That gigantic Armada approached, and our fleet engaged 
it. The British fleet was beaten. The first great hammer blow 
was struck, and the nimbus of British world supremacy disap- 
peared." Germany admitted certain losses — one old battleship, 
the Pommern ; three small cruisers, the Wiesbaden, Elbing, and 
Frauenlob ; and five destroyers. A little later she confessed to the 
loss of a battle cruiser, Liitzow, and the light cruiser Rostock, which 
at first she had kept secret " for political reasons." 



4 8 



A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. 



[June 



It was a striking tribute to the prestige of the British navy 
that the German claim was received with incredulity in all Allied 
and in most neutral countries. But false news, once it has started, 
may be dangerous ; and in some quarters, even among friends of 
the Allies, there was at first a disposition to accept the German 
version. The ordinary man is apt to judge of a battle, whether 
on land or sea, by the crude test of losses. The British Admiralty 
announced its losses at once with a candour which may have 
been undiplomatic, but which revealed a proud confidence in the 
invulnerability of the navy and the steadfastness of the British 
people. These losses were : one first-class battle cruiser, the Queen 
Mary ; two lesser battle cruisers, the Indefatigable and Invincible ; 
three armoured cruisers, the Defence, Black Prince, and Warrior ; and 
eight destroyers, the Tipper ary, Ardent, Fortune, Shark, Sparrowhawk, 
Nestor, Nomad, and Turbulent* More vital than the ships was the 
loss of thousands of gallant men, including some of the most 
distinguished of the younger admirals and captains. 

Sir John Jellicoe at the time estimated the German losses as 
two battleships of the largest class, one of the Deutschland class, 
one battle cruiser, five light cruisers, six destroyers, and one 
submarine. He overstated the immediate, and understated the 
ultimate damage. The German account was formally accurate, but 
her real loss was infinitely greater. The Seydlitz and the Derfflinger 
limped home almost total wrecks ; the battleship Ostfriesland struck 
a mine ; the Moltke and the Von der Tann took weeks to repair ; 
almost every vessel had been hit, some of them grievously. Scheer 
has declared that, apart from the two battle cruisers, the fleet 
was ready to take to sea by the middle of August ; but the truth is 
that it was never again a fighting fleet. Jutland, which had at 



The class and displacement of the lost ships were as follows 



I. Queen Mary 


Battle cruiser 






2. Indefatigable 


*t tt 






3. Invincible 


,, „ 






4. Defence 


Armoured cruiser 






5. Black Prince 


>» >> 






6. Warrior 


11 t> 






7. Tipperary 


Destroyer 






8. Ardent 


>> • 






9. Fortune 


»• • 






10. Shark 


ii • < 






11. Sparrowhawk 


i> • < 






12. Nestor 


11 • < 






13. Nomad 


11 • < 






14. Turbulent 


» • < 







Tons. 

27,000 

18,750 

17,250 

14,600 

i3,55o 

13,550 

1,430 

935 

935 

935 

935 

1,000 

1,000 

1,430 



Total . 



. 113,300 



1916] CRITICISMS ON ACTION. 49 

first the colour of victory, was an irremediable disaster. After the 
war was over, Captain Persius wrote in the Berliner Tageblatt : 
" The losses sustained by us were immense, in spite of the fact 
that luck was on our side, and on June 1, 1916, it was clear to 
every one of intelligence that the fight would be, and must be, the 
only one to take place." The fact was recognized by reasonable 
minds everywhere, and it was only the ignorant who imagined 
that the loss of a few ships could weaken British naval prestige. 
There was much to praise in the German conduct of the action. 
The German battle-cruiser gunnery was admirable ; Scheer's retreat 
when heavily outnumbered was skilfully conducted, and his escape 
in the night, even when we admit his special advantages, was a 
brilliant performance. But the one test of success is the fulfilment 
of a strategic intention, and Germany's most signally failed. From 
the moment of Scheer's return to port the British fleet held the 
sea. The blockade which Germany thought to break was drawn 
tighter than ever. Her secondary aim had been so to weaken the 
British fleet that it should be more nearly on an equality with her 
own. Again she failed, and the margin of British superiority was 
in no way impaired. Lastly, she hoped to isolate and destroy a 
British division. That, too, failed. The British Battle Cruiser 
Fleet remained a living and effective force, while the German 
Battle Cruiser Fleet was only a shadow. The result of the battle 
of 31st May was that Britain was more than ever confirmed in 
her mastery of the waters. 

Nevertheless the fact that the only occasion on which the main 
fleets met did not result in the annihilation of the enemy was a 
disappointment and a surprise to the British people, and criticism 
has been busy ever since with the British leadership. It has been 
asked why the Admiralty at 5.12 p.m. on 31st May ordered the 
Harwich force to sea, and then cancelled the order for ten hours — 
and this when Jellicoe had long before asked that all available 
ships and torpedo craft should be ordered to the scene of the Fleet's 
action as soon as it was known to be imminent. Beatty's dash 
and resolution have been universally commended, but he has been 
criticized for allowing Evan-Thomas's squadron to lag so far behind 
that it scarcely joined in the first stages of the battle-cruiser action, 
and for the lack of precision in his messages to Jellicoe before their 
junction. But it is the conduct of the Commander-in-Chief which 
has principally been called in question. He has been accused of a 
lack of ardour in engaging the enemy, as shown in his deploying to 
port instead of to starboard ; in his turning away between 7.15 and 



50 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

7.30 p.m. on 31st May to avoid torpedo attacks ; and in his refusal 
of a night battle. On the first and third of these points it would 
appear that the bulk of expert naval opinion is on his side ; on 
the second the arguments are more evenly balanced, and the 
matter will long continue in dispute. Even had no turn away 
been ordered, it is doubtful whether the range could have been 
kept closed, owing to the bad light and Scheer's persistent turning 
to starboard. But from the controversy there emerges a larger 
issue, on which naval historians must eternally take sides. Was 
Jutland fought in the true Trafalgar tradition ? Had the British 
Commander-in-Chief the single-hearted resolve to destroy the 
enemy at all costs, content to lose half or more than half his fleet 
provided no enemy ship survived ? It is idle to deny that the 
destruction of the High Sea Fleet would have been of incalculable 
value to the Allies, for it would have taken the heart out of the 
German people ; would have crippled, even if it did not prevent, 
the submarine campaign which in the next twelve months was to 
sink 25 out of every 100 merchantmen that left our shores; and 
would have opened up sea communication with Russia and thereby 
prevented the calamity of the following year. Was such a final 
victory possible at Jutland had Jellicoe handled the Battle Fleet 
as Beatty handled his battle cruisers ? 

The answer must remain a speculation. It is probable, indeed, 
that no risks accepted by the Commander-in-Chief would have 
altered a result due primarily to weather conditions and the late 
hour when the battle was joined. But the fact remains that 
Jellicoe's policy was that of the limited offensive. He was con- 
vinced that his duty was not to press the enemy beyond a point 
which might involve the destruction of his own weapon. The 
situation, as he saw it, had changed since the days of Trafalgar. 
Then only a relatively small part of the British fleet was engaged ; 
now the Grand Fleet included the great majority of the vessels upon 
which Britain and her Allies had to rely for safety. There was 
ever present to his mind, in his own words, " the necessity for not 
leaving anything to chance in a Fleet action, because our Fleet was 
the one and only factor that was vital to the existence of the Empire, 
as indeed of the Allied cause. We had no reserve outside the Battle 
Fleet which could in any way take its place should disaster befall 
it, or even should its margin of superiority over the enemy be 
eliminated." Moreover, the British navy had already achieved 
its main purpose ; was any further gain worth the risk of losing 
that victory ? It was a war of peoples, and even the most decisive 



i 9 i6] DEATH OF KITCHENER. 51 

triumph at sea would not end the contest, while a defeat would 
strike from the Allied hands the weapon on which all others de- 
pended. Such considerations are of supreme importance ; if it 
be argued that they belong to statesmanship rather than to naval 
tactics, it may be replied that the commander of the British Grand 
Fleet should be statesman as well as seaman. A good sailor, of 
proved courage and resolution, chose to decide in conformity with 
what he regarded as the essential interests of his land and against 
the tradition of the service and the natural bias of his spirit, and 
his countrymen may well accept and respect that decision. 



VI. 

Following close upon the greatest naval fight of all history 
came the news of a sea tragedy which cost Britain the life of her 
foremost soldier. It had been arranged that Lord Kitchener 
should undertake a mission to Russia to consult with the Russian 
commanders as to the coming Allied offensive, and to arrange 
certain details of policy concerning the supply of munitions. On 
the evening of Monday, 5th June, he and his party embarked in 
the cruiser Hampshire, which had returned three days before from 
the Battle of Jutland. About 8 p.m. that evening the ship sank 
in wild weather off the western coast of the Orkneys, having struck 
a mine in an unswept channel. Four boats left the vessel, but 
all were overturned. One or two survivors were washed ashore 
on the inhospitable coast ; but of Kitchener and his colleagues no 
word was ever heard again. 

The news of his death filled the whole Empire with profound 
sorrow, and the shock was felt no less by our Allies, who saw in 
him one of the chief protagonists of their cause. The British army 
went into mourning, and all classes of the community were affected 
with a grief which had not been paralleled since the death of 
Queen Victoria. Labour leader, trade-union delegate, and the 
patron of the conscientious objector were as heartfelt in their 
regret as his professional colleagues or the army which he had 
created. He died on the eve of a great Allied offensive, and did 
not live to see the consummation of his labours. But in a sense 
his work was finished, for more than any other man he had the 
credit of building up that vast British force which was destined to 
be the determining factor in the war. 

At the hour of his death he was beyond doubt the most dominant 
personality in the Empire, and the greatest of Britain's public 



52 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

servants. His popular prestige was immense, for he had about 
him that air of mystery and that taciturnity which the ordinary 
man loves to associate with a great soldier. His splendid presence, 
his iron face, his silence, his glittering record, raised him out of 
the ranks of mere notabilities to the select circle of those who even 
in their lifetime became heroes of romance. He was a lonely 
figure, with no talent for the facile acquaintanceships of the 
modern world ; but few men have inspired a more ardent affection 
among those who were admitted to the privilege of their friendship. 
Popular repute is apt to be melodramatic and to simplify unduly. 
Lord Kitchener was by no means the man of granite and iron whom 
the public fancy envisaged. He was a stern taskmaster, inflexibly 
just, and unfailingly loyal, but he had a deep inner fount of 
kindliness. He did not cultivate the gift of expression ; but 
now and then, as after the Vereeniging Peace Conference, he 
showed something like a genius for the fitting word. He had 
humour, too, of a kind which the world little realized — that 
sense of the comedy of situation which keeps a man's perspective 
true. 

To his abilities it is likely that history will do ample justice. 
He had behind him great positive achievements — the conquest 
of the Sudan, the completion of the South African campaign, a 
singularly successful administrative career in Egypt, and, above 
all, the organization of Britain for her greatest war. But in his 
own day the popular judgment was as wide of the mark as to the 
exact quality of his genius as to the nature of his personality. 
The capture of Omdurman and the eulogies of a famous war cor- 
respondent had established him as the complete administrator, the 
master of detail, the business man in excelsis. But the true bent 
of his mind was not towards detail. He was by no means the per- 
fect administrator, for he did not understand the art of delegating 
duties to others, tending always to draw every task into his own 
capable hands. He was fond of short cuts and summary methods, 
and there were occasions when the result was confusion. His true 
genius lay in his foresight and imagination. That is why he was 
so brilliant an Oriental administrator, for he could read the native 
mind. That is why, in August 1914, when most people expected 
a short campaign, he declared that the war would last for three 
years, and made his plans accordingly. There were men in the 
British army, and there were men in the Allied forces, who ranked 
above him as scientific soldiers, learned in the latest military art. 
There were men who could have handled better than he a force 



iqi6] HIS MIND AND CHARACTER. 53 

in the field. There were those, too, who equally well could have 
organized the business side of an army. But there was no man 
living who saw the main issues so simply and clearly. He could 
divine the essentials, though he might err over details. He had 
the vision which is possible only to the rare few whose souls are of 
the spacious and simple cast and are undistracted by the tumult 
of petty absorptions. And with insight went balance. His mind 
soberly and accurately discerned realities. In the apt words of his 
biographer : " He saw all, not as in a picture with the illusions of 
perspective, but as in a plan where dimensions and distances 
figure as they are and not as they seem." In the art of war, said 
Napoleon, the making of pictures is fatal ; a good soldier sees 
objects exactly as they are, as if through a field-glass. 

The last months had not been the happiest of his life. Many 
of the day by day problems which he found himself called upon 
to face were so unfamiliar to him that he handled them clumsily. 
He did not understand, nor was he understood by, certain of his 
colleagues. For politics in the ordinary sense he had no aptitude > 
he did not comprehend their language, and he did not shine in that 
business of discussion by which all normal government must be 
conducted. On many matters he spoke with an uncertain voice, 
for he was not quick at comprehending mere matter of detail, and 
often his colleagues were driven to a justifiable irritation. After 
the smooth mastery of his earlier career he was sometimes puzzled 
and uneasy in the vortex in which he found himself. To his long- 
sighted eyes the foreground was always apt to be a little dim. But 
the vision remained, and if he could not foresee what the day was 
to bring forth, he was right about the year. 

More notable than his intellect were those gifts of personality 
which dominated without effort those who came into contact 
with him. No man of his time enjoyed a completer public confi- 
dence, and he had won it without any of the arts of the demagogue. 
A daimonic force radiated from him and affected millions who 
had never seen him. Without being a politician, he had the 
greatest of the politician's gifts — the power of creating a tradition 
which, so to speak, multiplied his personality indefinitely, and made 
the humblest and remotest recognize in him their leader. In the 
dark days of August 1914 he was the one man to whom the nation 
turned, and without the magic of his name Britain's stupendous 
military effort could not have been made. His death was a fitting 
conclusion to the drama of his life, since the great soldier of England 
found peace beneath the waves to which England had anew estab 



54 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

lished her title.* For epitaph let us set down words written of 
a very different figure, but applicable to all careers of splendid 
but unfinished achievement. 

" His work was done ... all of his work for which the fates 
could spare him time. A little space was allowed him to show at 
least a heroic purpose, and attest a high design ; then, with all 
things unfinished before him and behind, he fell asleep after many 
troubles and triumphs. Few can ever have gone wearier to the 
grave ; none with less fear. . . . Forgetful now and set free for 
ever from all faults and foes, he passed through the doorway of 
no ignoble death out of reach of time, out of sight of love, out 
of hearing of hatred. ... In the full strength of spirit and of 
body his destiny overtook him, and made an end of all his labours. 
He had seen and borne and achieved more than most men on 
record. He was a great man, good at many things, and now he 
had attained his rest." f 

* One of the finest tributes to his memory appeared in a journal published in the 
French trenches. The following is a free translation : — 

" Cypress nor yew shall weave for him their shade ; 
Cypress nor yew shall shield his quiet sleep ; 
Marble must crack, and graven names must fade- 
He for his tomb hath won the changeless deep. 
We mortal pilgrims bring our transient gift, 

Fast-fading flowers, as garlands for his fame ; 
But 'tis the tempest and the thunderous drift 
That to eternity shall sound his name." 

f Swinburne on Byron. 



CHAPTER LVI. 

THE AUSTRIAN ATTACK IN THE TRENT INO. 
October 21, 1915-June 15, 1916. 

The Winter Fighting in Italy, 1915-1916 — Plan of Austrian Staff — Topography of 
the Asiago Plateau — The Attack begins — Arrival of Italian Reserves — The 
Attack dies away — Boselli succeeds Salandra as Prime Minister. 



The achievement of Italy during the first year of war was too little 
appreciated by the world at large, and even her Allies were in some 
doubt as to its precise character. Her difficulties from the start 
had been very great. She began with a frontier so drawn at every 
point as to give the advantage to the enemy. Her main thrust 
could only be eastwards across the Isonzo ; but, alone of the 
Allies, she had her flank and her communications directly threat- 
ened should she pursue her natural line of offensive. Hence she 
was compelled to fight hard and continuously on two fronts — to 
press against the Isonzo barrier, and at the same time to win safety 
in Carnia, the Dolomites, and the Trentino. Napoleon in 1798 
and Massena in 1805 did not dare to cross the Isonzo till Joubert in 
the one case and Ney in the other had forestalled the danger of an 
enemy flank attack from the hills. Italy's battle-front was, there- 
fore, not less than five hundred miles from the Stelvio in the north 
to the sea at Monfalcone. Moreover, they were five hundred of 
the most difficult miles in Europe. Beyond the Isonzo lay that 
strange plateau of the Carso which had long been selected for the 
Austrian defence. There trenches and shelters were hewn out of 
the solid rock, since ordinary field entrenchments were impossible 
in a land where there was no soil. The enemy had to be ousted 
from his hold before any advance could be made, and the cam- 
paign became in the strictest sense an attack upon a fortress. 
North of the Carso was the town of Gorizia, a formidable entrenched 
camp defended by 200,000 troops, and, with its flanking positions, 
showing a width of over sixty miles. North and west of the Isonzo 



56 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct. 

was the long horseshoe of the mountain front. Every pass was, 
to begin with, in Austria's hands, and to win security the enemy 
had to be pressed back over the watershed. Moreover, on Italy's 
left flank the ominous salient of the Trentino ran down into the 
Lombard plain, and offered a choice of a hundred starting-points 
for an Austrian assault upon the Italian rear. In strategical 
anxieties and tactical difficulties the Italian battle-ground was cne 
of the worst in the whole area of the campaigns. 

These military drawbacks found a counterpart in the condition 
of Italian politics. The great majority of the nation was on the 
Allied side, but that majority was not prepared for a protracted 
struggle. A short campaign of victory had been the general 
anticipation. Again, war had only been declared against Austria- 
Hungary, and Germany was nominally not yet an enemy. The 
immense purchase which the latter had won by her control of 
Italian commerce and finance made a breach with her unacceptable 
to many classes. This partial avoidance of the main issue led to 
some fumbling in Italian policy, and to the intrigues which always 
attend indecision. Moreover, it prevented the army from being 
what it was elsewhere, the whole nation in arms. During the long 
and desperate winter struggle the troops, which held their own so 
gallantly among Alpine snows and the floods of the Isonzo, did 
not yet represent the true sum of Italy's fighting strength. 

If we realize the Italian difficulties, we shall do justice to the 
magnitude of her achievement. Her intervention, as we have 
seen, was an invaluable contribution to the Allied strategical 
purpose. She had drawn against her some of the best troops of 
the Dual Monarchy. She had drawn them to a line where they 
were more or less segregated from the rest of the Austrian forces, 
for the Italian sector was not an extension of the main Eastern 
front. Hence the Austrian Staff were placed in the position that 
they could not, after the German manner, move rapidly reinforce- 
ments to different parts of their line. Owing to the divergent 
nationalities under their command, they were unable to treat their 
armies as a homogeneous whole which could be moved solely 
according to military considerations. The existence of the Italian 
front, therefore, hampered that mobility on which the Central 
Powers, holding the interior lines, chiefly relied. 

During the winter there was a steady pressure along the whole 
frontier, even in regions where the weather seemed to compel inac- 
tion. October and November saw considerable activity against the 
positions protecting Gorizia. On 21st October, after an artillery 



1915] WINTER IN THE MOUNTAINS. 57 

preparation of fifty hours, the third main assault since the declara- 
tion of war was made on the Isonzo front. The fighting was fierce 
along the rim of the Doberdo plateau and towards San Martino, 
and some trenches were captured on the Podgora height. At 
the same time, in the Trentino, troops descending from Monte 
Altissimo cut the Austrian communications by the direct road 
from Riva to Rovereto. The bombardment on the Isonzo con- 
tinued for a fortnight, and much damage was done to Gorizia 
itself. Further trenches were gained on Podgora, and on 20th 
November the village of Oslavia, north-west of Gorizia, was carried, 
while on the Carso ground was won on the north slopes of Monte San 
Michele and south-west of San Martino. Till the end of the month 
the struggle went on ; but the enemy was now reinforced, and in 
the first days of December the battle died away. The Italians had 
won a narrow strip along the western edge of the Carso, and had 
improved their position at Podgora ; but they were still far from 
bursting through the formidable Austrian defences. 

For the main achievement of the winter campaign we must 
look to the great hills. It is probable that history has never seen 
such mountain warfare as was now waged from the Stelvio round 
the skirts of the Trentino, among the limestone crags of Cadore 
and Carnia, and down the dark gorges of the upper Isonzo. During 
the summer and early autumn the main passes had been won by 
Italy. The great Austrian lateral railway through the Pusterthal 
was under the fire of the guns behind Cristallo. Far up into the 
glaciers, and on the icy ridges, were Italian observation posts 
directing the guns behind the cliffs, and the heavy guns them- 
selves were often emplaced at heights usually reached only by the 
mountaineer. There were batteries at an elevation of 9,000 feet, 
of which each gun weighed eleven tons, the carriage five tons, and 
the platform thirty tons. Many of the engineering and transport 
feats almost surpass belief ; for not only did men and guns reach 
unheard-of eyries, but they were able to maintain themselves there 
during the winter storms. It was difficult enough in the summer, 
when the Alpini in their scarpetti di gatta, or string-soled shoes, 
climbed the smooth white precipices of Tofana and Cristallo ; but 
in winter, when ice coated the rocks, and among the high peaks 
of the western Trentino avalanches hung poised on every cliff, 
it became the sternest trial of human endurance. He who has 
mountaineered in the Alps in winter is aware that extraordinary 
climbs may be made, given fair weather conditions ; but he knows 
too that the day must be picked, and that Nature may not easily 



58 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [March 

be defied. But the work of Italy's mountain defenders went on 
by day and night, and stayed not for the wildest weather. Food 
and ammunition must be brought up to the high posts at whatever 
cost. Much was done by the filorie, or aerial cables, on which a 
load of half a ton could travel, in the same way as in Norway the 
hay crop is sent down from the high saeter meadows to the deep- 
cut valleys. But no mechanical device could seriously lessen the 
constant difficulties and dangers. It must be remembered, too, 
that in the mountains the Italian Alpini found no mean antagonists. 
Whoever knows the hardy people of Tyrol will not underrate their 
hillcraft and courage. There were desperate encounters in that 
icy wilderness of which the tale has not been told, and when the 
snow melted grim sights were to be seen. On Monte Nero one 
morning the Italian line saw suddenly a new army on the hillside 
standing in a strange attitude. They were 600 Austrian corpses, 
frozen stiff, which the summer sun had rescued from the shroud 
of snow. 

In the middle of March 1916 the guns began to sound again 
on the Isonzo. Gorizia and the Doberdo plateau were bombarded, 
and for a week or two there were attacks and counter-attacks. 
But the spring floods made progress difficult, and the only result 
of the action was to inspire the Austrian Staff with a firm belief 
that Cadorna contemplated an offensive in this quarter as soon 
as summer had come. The chief activity of the early spring 
was in the hill country. The night of 17th April saw one of the 
great mining exploits of the campaign. West of the Falzarego 
Pass, which runs from Cortina to Bozen, stands a bold, round- 
topped spur, just inside the Austrian frontier, which commands 
all the western road. It is called the Col di Lana, and in November 
1915 its summit was taken bjr Colonel Peppino Garibaldi. But 
the summit could not be held, and while the Italians controlled 
the greater part of the mountain, the Austrians kept their foot- 
hold on the northern slopes. It was resolved to blast the enemy 
from his stronghold, and in the middle of January mining opera- 
tions were begun under the guidance of a son of the Duke of Ser- 
moneta. The tunnel took three months to complete. Before the 
end the Austrians grew suspicious, and started counter-mining ; 
but their direction was wrong. On the night of 17th April the 
Italian mine was exploded, and the remnants of the Austrian posi- 
tion were carried by infantry. The crater thus formed was 150 
feet wide and 50 feet deep. About the same time a brilliant action 
was fought far to the west, where the Adamello group separates the 



i 9 i6] THE AUSTRIAN DISPOSITIONS. 59 

upper waters of the Oglio from the streams that feed Lake Garda. 
The Austrians held the crest, and the Italians were in position far 
down on the great Adamello glacier, and on the rock ridges that 
cut it. Colonel Giordano, commanding an Alpini detachment, 
resolved to push the enemy from the crest. On the night of 
nth April 300 Alpini left the Rifugio Garibaldi on skis, and 
reached the glacier in a whirlwind of snow. The place is 10,000 
feet above the sea, and in April its climate is arctic. After strug- 
gling on through the night, they attacked the Austrian position 
in the earty morning, and drove them from the rocks of the glacier. 
This exploit was followed on 29th April by a bigger movement. 
In a clear starlit night 2,000 Alpini followed the same route, forced 
the Austrians from the main crest, and, after severe fighting, in 
which they were assisted by a battery of 6-inch guns which had 
been brought up to the very edge of the glacier, dominated the 
head of the Val di Genova, and so won a position on the flank of 
the Austrian lines in the Val Giudicaria. Giordano was promoted 
major-general, and fell a few weeks later in the Trentino battles. 

The Austrian front was now divided into three main sections. 
From the sea to Tolmino lay the V. Army, under Boroevitch von 
Bojna. North from Tolmino to Carni3 lay the X. Army, under von 
Rohr ; and the 14th (Tirol) Corps defended the Pusterthal line to the 
north of Cadore. In the Trentino itself lay two Austrian armies — 
those of Dankl and von Kovess : the whole under the command of 
the Archduke Charles, the heir to the Austrian throne. Between 
them these forces probably aggregated a million men, with 600,000 
combatants in line. Throughout the winter there had been a 
gradual strengthening of one section of the front — that part of 
the Trentino between the Val Lagarina and the Val Sugana. Large 
numbers of batteries had been brought to the Folgaria and Lava- 
rone plateaux south-west of the city of Trent. The infantry 
strength was also increased during April by picked troops from 
the whole Austrian front. The Italian Staff were aware of the 
concentration, but they anticipated no more than a local counter- 
attack, such as they had seen in April on the Isonzo. In that 
view they erred, for the Archduke Charles was preparing one of 
the major offensives of the war. 

In the previous December, when the war on the Russian and 
Balkan fronts had slackened for the time, the Austro-Hungarian 
Staff had proposed a break-out from the Trentino salient against 
the flank and rear of Cadorna's lines, in the hope of putting Italy 
out of the war. Falkenhayn refused his consent, on the ground 



60 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

that he could not spare German divisions to replace the troops 
taken from the Galician front ; that if Cadorna were driven back 
into the plains it would not mean the end of Italy's resistance ; 
and that, even if it did, " England and Russia, the two pillars of 
the Entente, would not be deeply grieved to see a partner who 
did so little and asked so much out of the business altogether." 
The proposal was therefore dropped for the moment, but it was 
revived in the spring, and the Austro-Hungarian General Staff 
determined to carry out the plan with their own resources. The 
friction between the two Staffs was growing, and Austria was 
resolved to do something to salve her wounded pride, and to ex- 
ploit the weakness of Italy's strategic position. In the Trentino 
she had accumulated a total of some 400,000 men, and out of 
that she had a striking force of fifteen picked divisions. The 
obvious objective for an enemy in the Trentino was the plain of 
Venetia, through which ran the two railway lines which were the 
main communications of the Isonzo front. The northern ran by 
Brescia, Verona, Vicenza, and Castelfranco to Udine ; the southern, 
by Mantua and Padua to Monfalcone. If one was cut, the Isonzo 
army would be crippled and compelled to retreat ; if both fell, it 
would be in deadly danger. As at Verdun, the army of attack 
was to be commanded by the heir-apparent, for dynastic and 
military interests were interwoven in Teutonic strategy. 

At the beginning of May the Italian position in the southern 
Trentino ran from a point just south of Rovereto in the Val Laga- 
rina eastward up the Val Terragnolo, north of the mountain mass 
called Pasubio. Thence it stretched north-eastward just inside the 
Austrian frontier, facing the enemy lines on the Folgaria plateau. 
From the hill called Soglio d'Aspio it went due east and then north, 
just outside the old frontier line, to the Cima Manderiolo, from 
which point it ran north across the valley of the Brenta to Monte 
Collo, north-west of Borgo. Thence it passed north-east to the 
Val Calamento. The front had elements of dangerous weakness. 
On the extreme left the position at the north end of the Zugna 
ridge — the peak called Zugna Torta — was a salient exposed to the 
enemy's fire from three sides. The left centre and centre were 
also precarious, being commanded by the admirable Austrian 
gun positions on the Folgaria and Lavarone plateaux. The whole 
front was really a string of advanced posts which any resolute 
attack must speedily push in. The true Italian front was the second 
line, which ran from the Zugna ridge to the Pasubio massif, along 
the hills north of the Val Posina to the upper Astico, across the 



I 9 i6] THE ASIAGO PLATEAU. 61 

north and higher part of the Sette Communi plateau, reaching the 
Val Sugana east of Borgo, at the glen of the little river Maso. 
Here, again, the left centre was badly situated, for behind it there 
were long bare slopes falling to the Fosina and Astico valleys. 

Obviously the main peril was on the flanks, for in the Val 
Lagarina and the Val Sugana there were roads and railways to 
support an enemy advance. In these valleys the defensive posi- 
tions were good ; but there was always the danger that they might 
be turned by a thrust of the enemy's centre through the interven- 
ing mountains. There were three roads along which troops and guns 
could move. One — the best — ran from the Val Lagarina up the 
Vallarsa to Chiese, and thence by a good pass to the town of Schio 
just above the plain. Another ran from the Folgaria plateau down 
the glen of the Astico to the little town of Arsiero. A third ran 
from the Lavarone plateau down the Val d'Assa to the town of 
Asiago. Schio, Arsiero, and Asiago were all connected by light 
railways with the trunk line running through Vicenza, and Asiago 
was only eight miles from Valstagna in the valley of the lower 
Brenta. To get the Schio road the Austrians must carry Pasubio, 
which commanded it. To win Arsiero was easier, but in order to 
debouch from it they must get the ridge just south of it, the last 
line of the mountain defence. In the same way, while Asiago 
offered an easy prey, to make use of the gain they must clear the 
Sette Communi plateau to the south of it — so called from its seven 
villages, which long ago were a German settlement. In any great 
assault these three points — Pasubio, the ridge south of the Val 
Posina, and the Sette Communi upland — would form the last 
rallying ground of the defence. If they fell, the road to the plains 
was open. 

In December Falkenhayn had told Conrad von Hoetzendorff 
that in the Trentino he could not secure a strategic or tactical 
surprise, since the deployment would be limited to a single railway. 
In this view the German Chief of Staff was wrong, for Cadorna 
was caught napping. The Italian Commander-in-Chief had staked 
everything on a short war and a dash for Trieste, and when this 
failed he seemed unwilling to evolve an alternative plan. A compe- 
tent soldier of the old school, he was somewhat lacking in mental 
elasticity, and new facts dawned but slowly on his mind ; a native 
obstinacy made him tenacious of his own opinion and impatient of 
advice, and commanders who differed from him were apt to be sum- 
marily removed. He refused to admit the menace from the Tren- 
tino, and treated the First Army which held that front so casually 



62 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

that it became known as " the convalescent corps." Its com- 
mander, Roberto Brusati, had warned him from February onward 
of the impending danger; but Cadorna was deaf, and Brusati 
suffered the fate of faithful counsellors, and was dismissed from 
his command.* Nevertheless the High Command was not wholly 
at ease, and the new commander, Pecori-Giraldi, was allowed to 
strengthen the flanks of the First Army in the Val Lagarina and 
Val Sugana, which were obviously the vital points. But the 
repentance came too late, and before the work could be completed 
the Archduke Charles had launched his attack. 

The great bombardment began on 14th May. Over 2,000 guns, 
of which at least 800 were heavies, opened on a front of thirty 
miles. The Italian front line was blasted away, and from the 
15-inch naval guns and the howitzers in the Folgaria and Lavarone 
positions shells were thrown into Asiago itself. The Italian 
advanced lines fell back at once in the centre, but resisted fiercely 
on the flanks at Zugna and west of Borgo. On the 15th and 16th 
there was a severe struggle on the Zugna ridge, and on the 17th 
the Italian left retired from Zugna Torta towards the Coni Zugna 
crest farther south. Next day all the section from Monte Maggio 
to Soglio d'Aspio was abandoned ; and on the following day, the 
19th, the centre in the upper glen of the Astico was driven from 
the position Monte Toraro-Monte Campomolon-Spitz Tonezza. 
Things went better on the right, but the defeat of the centre meant 
that the Arsiero plateau must fall. That day the Italian line ran 
from Coni Zugna over the Pasubio massif, and then — waveringly 
— north of the Val Posina and across the Sette Communi table- 
land to the Val Sugana. 

On 20th May Cadorna decided to withdraw his centre to a 
position well in the rear. The north side of the Val Posina was 
no place to hold, so the Italians fell back to the southern ridge, 
and to a line in the Sette Communi east of the Val d'Assa. This 
withdrawal was completed by the 24th in good order ; but the 
Austrian advance did not allow the defence time to prepare its 
new ground. Many prisoners had been lost in the past days, and 
the casualties were heavy, though the enemy had also suffered 
severely whenever he came out from the shelter of his guns. By 
the 25th the Austrians were violently attacking Coni Zugna and 
Pasubio, and had made of the latter a salient, since they had 
pushed up the Rovereto-Schio road between it and Coni Zugna 

* For three years he carried the whole blame of the mischance, till his reputation 
was completely cleared by the findings of a Commission of Inquiry. 



1916] THE FIGHT FOR PASUBIO. 63 

as far as the hamlet of Chiese under the Buole Pass. If the advance 
continued, Pasubio must fall ; and if Pasubio fell, the whole Italian 
centre south of the Val Posina was turned, and the way was open 
to the Venetian plains. 

Meantime Cadorna had summoned his reserves, a new army, 
to assemble in and around Vicenza. This was the Fifth Army, 
which had been already concentrated between the Tagliamento 
and the Isonzo for the offensive against Gorizia. In ten days it 
began to appear on the skirts of the hills — a total of little less than 
half a million men. But it could not arrive in force before 2nd 
June — and to be ready so soon was a real feat of organization and 
transport — and it was necessary for Pecori-Giraldi to hold the fort 
for the critical last week of May. Some local reserves were brought 
to aid him, including one division which in a single night was 
moved by motor from Carnia to Pasubio. 

By the 25th, while Pasubio and the Posina position were threat- 
ened, the Italian right in the Val Sugana had managed to retire 
in good order east of Borgo to its prepared line on the east bank of 
the Maso torrent. But the right centre in the Sette Communi was 
in hard case. On the 25th and 26th it was driven off all the heights 
east of the Val d'Assa. On the 27th the Austrians were south of 
the Galmarara, a tributary of the Assa on the left bank. On the 
28th they had occupied the mountain called Moschicce, just north 
of Asiago. 

While things were going thus ill on the right centre, the Italian 
left was fighting the action which marked the critical point in the 
battle. For days a desperate struggle raged for Coni Zugna and 
Pasubio, and especially for the pass of Buole, which would give 
the enemy access to the lower Adige. There, in spite of the Aus- 
trian mastery in guns, the Italians managed to remain in their 
makeshift trenches till they could get to grips with the bayonet. 
Again and again the waves of attack rolled forward, broke, and 
ebbed. On 30th May came the climax. The Austrian infantry 
in masses assaulted the pass of Buole ; but the defence did not 
yield one yard. On that day 7,000 Austrians fell, and in the 
week's fighting some 40 per cent, of their effectives perished. By 
their fortitude at this supreme moment the Italians had blunted 
the point of the whole Austrian spear-thrust. 

But the battle was still far from its end. The enemy now 
endeavoured to take Pasubio, attacking on three sides — from the 
ridge of Col Santo, from Chiese, and from the Val Terragnolo by 
the Borcole Pass. His superiority in men was great, and in guns 



64 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

greater. But the resolute defence did not break. For three weeks 
in the snow of the ridges it battled heroically against odds, till the 
assault slackened, weakened, and then died away. Meantime the 
Italian centre was scarcely less highly tried. The battle-ground 
lay in two sections — the left along the ridge which runs from 
Pasubio south of the Posina, the right across the Sette Communi 
tableland. On 25th May the Austrians took Bettale, on the Posina, 
and the height of Cimone, which dominated Arsiero. On the 
28th they were across the Posina, and fighting for the southern 
ridge, the last line of defence before the plains. On 30th May 
they won the peak of Pria Fora, one of the points on the ridge, 
and to the east were on the heights just north of Arsiero. By 
that day the Italians had evacuated both Arsiero and Asiago, 
and at the latter place the enemy was east of the Val Campomolon, 
and within four miles of the Val Sugana, well to the rear of the 
Italian front in that valley. In the centre he was all but look- 
ing down on Schio. On 1st June an Austrian army order in- 
formed the troops that onty one mountain remained between them 
and the Venetian plain. Three days later the Italians were driven 
east of the Val Canaglia, to the south-east of Arsiero. The enemy 
was only eighteen miles from Vicenza and the trunk line. 

But he had exhausted his strength. He had been held on the 
wings, and this nullified the success of his centre. Already, on 
27th May, he had asked for a division from Prince Leopold's Army 
Group, and Falkenhayn realized that the situation had grown 
critical. On 3rd June Cadorna announced that the Austrian 
offensive had been checked. He had got his new army ; more- 
over, the troops already in line had taken the measure of the 
enemy. The Italian position now ran from Zugna Torta to Pasubio, 
then well south of the Posina to the Astico, south-east of Arsiero, 
east of the Val Canaglia, along the southern rim of the Asiago 
plateau to east of the Val Campomolon, and then north along the 
edge of the tableland that drops to the Val Sugana. While the 
new army was preparing its attack, a ceaseless struggle went on 
on the Posina heights and in the Sette Communi. In the first 
sector the enemy sought to reach Schio and the plains, and in the 
second to turn the Italian right in the Val Sugana. If this fight- 
ing represented the great effort of the Austrian offensive, it was 
not less the supreme effort of the heavily tried defence. On the 
night of 4th June Ciove, the last Italian position south of the 
Posina, was violently assailed ; and again on 12th June, when the 
whole ridge was blasted by the great guns. On the 13 th the 



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I9 i6] RESULTS OF BATTLE. 65 

attack was renewed without success ; but the Italian brigade 
which held the place lost 70 per cent, of its strength. In the Sette 
Communi the main points of attack were Monte Cengio, the Val 
Canaglia, and the Val Frenzele, where the enemy was within four 
miles of Valstagna in the Val Sugana. On 15th June, and for the 
two days following, the troops on Monte Pau, the southern edge 
of the Sette Communi, repulsed what proved to be the last of 
the great Austrian assaults. The action declined into an artillery 
duel, and a week later Cadorna had begun to move forward in his 
counter-stroke. 

The Austrian attack in the Trentino had deferred — but not for 
long — Italy's main offensive plan ; it had been costly to the de- 
fence, and had shown some of the bloodiest combats of the war. 
Shelling with great guns among those peaks was a desperate busi- 
ness ; for whereas elsewhere there was deep soil to limit the effects 
of the percussion, there among rock walls the result was as shatter- 
ing as on the deck of a steel battleship. The test proved and tem- 
pered the resolution of the Italian soldier. It awoke certain sec- 
tions of the people, who were still apathetic, to the realities of war, 
and — as is usual in a democracy when things go wrong — it led to 
the formation of a new Ministry. Salandra fell from power, and 
a Cabinet was formed under Signor Boselli, with Sonnino still in 
charge of Foreign Affairs. Through the whole Italian army went 
a wave of honest pride, which is the due of those who have suffered 
much and held their ground. But the true moral — the inefficiency 
of the military hierarchy at the top — was missed, and it was the 
Prime Minister, who dared to criticize it, that suffered. For sixteen 
months longer the valour of the troops was to be misused in blind 
and ill-considered attacks, till a crushing disaster dispelled the 
legend of infallibility which had too long shrouded the High 
Command. 

The vital consequences of Austria's attack were to be found 
in the field of general strategy. She had crowded her men and 
guns into a deep salient, served by few railways, and some hundreds 
of miles from her main battle-ground. In grips there with a deter- 
mined enemy, she could not easily or quickly break off the battle 
should danger threaten elsewhere. And danger, deadly and un- 
looked for, speedily threatened. For on Sunday, 4th June, the 
day after Cadorna proclaimed the check of the invasion, Brussilov 
had launched his thunderbolt on the Galician front. 



CHAPTER LVII. 

BRUSSILOV IN GALICIA. 

June ^-August n, 1916. 

Change in Russia's Plan — Condition of Austrian Armies — Brussilov's five Battle- 
grounds — Fall of Lutsk and Dubno — The Affair at Baranovitchi — Fall of 
Czernovitz and Kimpolung — Capture of Brody — Results of the Ten Weeks' 
Battle — Changes in Austrian Dispositions. 



Since the failure of the advance in the Lake Narotch region in 
April quiet had reigned on the long front between the Gulf of 
Riga and the Rumanian border. May brought the Austrian 
irruption into Italy, but Alexeiev made no sign of movement. At 
a time when Cadorna was sorely tried, and it looked as if the Arch- 
duke Charles would reach the Venetian plains, the Power which had 
not yet failed an ally at need remained inactive. Russia had her 
own plan, and it took time to mature. She was making ready for 
the great combined Allied offensive which was due as soon as 
Germany should have spent her strength at Verdun and the new 
British troops and guns were ready for action. It had taken her a 
long winter to make her preparations, to drill her reserves, to im- 
prove her communications, and to collect munitions. Ivanov's 
Christmas attack on Czernovitz and Evert's spring offensive towards 
Vilna had been only local assaults with a local purpose ; the coming 
advance was conceived on a far greater scale, and with a far wider 
strategic purpose. At a given signal, in conjunction with all her 
allies, she would sweep forward, and that device of Germany's 
which had hitherto checked her — the power of moving troops at 
will by good internal lines — would be defeated. For if the Teu- 
tonic League were attacked everywhere at once there would be 
no troops to move. 

But no great plan can be followed to the letter, and the man 
who sticks too rigidly to a programme is not a soldier but a pedant. 
The Russian offensive, as originallv planned, was to be undertaken 

66" 



i 9 i6] THE FRONTS IN GALICIA. 67 

by Evert's western group west of Molodetchno with the Fourth, 
the Tenth, and the new Guard Army. But during May it was be- 
coming clear that Italy might be so hard pressed that she would 
have to use in defence all the resources which she had allotted to 
her share in the joint offensive. The date for the main movement 
was not put forward. But it was resolved to use the new might of 
Russia in a preliminary attack against the Austrian section of the 
Eastern front to ease the pressure on Italy. At the same time all 
was put in readiness to follow up any successes that might be gained, 
and to merge, should it seem desirable, the preliminary attack in 
the main operation. 

On the first day of June the Austro-German armies south of 
Pinsk lay on the following lines. From the small salient east of 
that city their front ran nearly due south, following at first the 
left bank of the Styr, but crossing to the right bank above Rafa- 
lovka. East of Chartorysk it left that river, and ran south till 
it cut the Lemberg-Rovno railway just east of Dubno. It crossed 
the Galician frontier north of Tarnopol, which town was in Russian 
hands, and followed the Strypa a few miles to the east of the 
stream. It reached the Dniester west of Usciezko, where the 
Russians held the river crossing, and then turned east along the 
northern shore, curving round to the Rumanian frontier on the 
Pruth a dozen miles from Czernovitz. This sector was held by 
four armies. Astride the Pripet lay Linsingen, and south to the 
Styr the Archduke Joseph's Austrian IV. Army. From just south 
of Lutsk to west of Tarnopol lay Boehm-Ermolli's Austrian II. 
Army. Thence Bothmer's Southern Army carried the front to the 
Dniester; while south of it lay the VII. Austrian Army, under 
Pflanzer-Baltin, down to the Rumanian frontier. It was the old 
line which, with new dints at Usciezko and east of Czernovitz, they 
had held throughout the winter. Opposite this force lay the Russian 
South-Western Army Group, which till April was in the hands of 
Ivanov. Recalled to staff duties at the Imperial Headquarters, he 
was succeeded by Brussilov, who had commanded the Eighth Army 
through the storm and shine of the Carpathian struggle of 1914-15. 
Brussilov was one of the most war-worn of all the Russian command- 
ers, for he had been continually in action since the first day of the 
campaign. But he was born, if ever man was, with a " faculty 
for storm and turbulence," and twenty-two months of conflict had 
left no mark on his eager spirit. He was recognized by all as an 
incomparable leader of troops, but doubts had been expressed as 
to whether he had the capacity for controlling large and complex 



68 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

operations ; whether his talents were not more suited for a cavalry 
dash or a stone-wall retreat than for the methodical stages of scien- 
tific warfare. He had four armies in his charge : on his right his 
old Eighth Army — now under General Kaledin, who, like his fore- 
runner, was a cavalryman ; next, the Eleventh, under Sakharov — 
once Kuropatkin's Chief of Staff in Manchuria ; then the Seventh, 
under Tcherbachev ; and lastly the Ninth, under Lechitski, ex- 
tending to the Rumanian border. 

Certain misconceptions were prevalent at this time in the West 
with regard to the nature of the Austro-German front in Volhynia, 
Galicia, and the Bukovina. It was assumed to be a fluid and 
make-shift affair in contrast with the serried fortifications of the 
West. This much was true, that in large tracts where the line 
extended through the woods and swamps of Poliesia there was no 
continuous front, any more than there was a continuous front in 
the marshes of the Somme. That was inevitable from the nature 
of the country. Nor was there anything like that consistent and 
intricate strength which two years of labour had produced in France 
and Flanders, since at the most this Eastern line had been estab- 
lished for eight months. But it would be an error to regard the 
Austrian sector as mere improvised field shelters. The trench 
lines were numerous and good, the dug-outs deep and commodious, 
the wire entanglements on a liberal scale. There were well- 
constructed, if not always well-sited, reserve positions. The com- 
munications were admirable — far better than anything behind the 
Russian front. New roads and a great number of light railways 
connected the firing trenches with the trunk lines of Galicia. In 
mechanical industry the Austrians showed themselves apt pupils 
of their German masters. Nothing was left undone to ensure the 
comfort of the officers. Commodious subterranean dwellings and 
elegant cabins embowered in the woods amazed the oncoming 
Russians with evidences of a luxury which was unknown in their 
hardy lives. Like the Germans on the Somme, the Austrians 
behaved as if their front had grown stable and could not be broken, 
and they were resolved to make it a pleasant habitation. The 
fault of Austria did not lie in negligent fatigue work, but in an 
underestimate of the enemy before her. She did not believe that 
Russia could move yet awhile, and she had depleted her long front 
of both men and guns. The strongest fortifications on earth can- 
not be held against a resolute foe unless there is also a superior 
artillery behind them, and infantry adequate in quality and num- 
bers to man them. There were no strategic reserves left to meet 



I 9 i6] BRUSSILOV'S PLAN. 69 

tLn attack, and too many batteries had gone west to the Trentino. 
Above all, the Austrian infantrymen had not the fighting value 
of the Russian. There were good troops on the Galician front, 
but the average was not equal to that of their opponents. There 
was not the same national impetus behind them, and there was 
a strange lack of touch between the higher and the regimental 
commands, and between officers and men. Armies bundled about 
like pawns at the bidding of an alien staff could not have the dash 
or the tenacity of men who fought for a cause they understood, 
under the command of tried and trusted leaders. 

We must conceive of Brussilov's plan as in the first instance 
strictly a reconnaissance — a reconnaissance made on an immense 
scale and with desperate resolution, but still a reconnaissance 
rather than a blow at a selected objective. His strategy was not 
yet determined. Behind the enemy's front lay vital points like 
Kovel and Lemberg and Stanislau ; but the way to each was long, 
and might be hopeless. His business was to test the strength of 
the enemy lines on a front of nearly 300 miles between the Pripet 
and Rumania. When he knew its strength he would know his 
own purpose. He was like a man beating at a wall to discover 
which parts are solid stone and which are lath and plaster. But 
each blow was to be delivered with all his might, for this was a 
test of life and death. 

May had been a month of heavy rains, and the wet lowlands 
south of the Pripet and around the lower Styr made a bad campaign- 
ing ground. It was better southward among the sandy fields and 
the oak woods of Volhynia, and on the Galician plateau summer 
conditions reigned. On Sunday, 4th June, a steady, methodical 
bombardment opened along the whole of Brussilov's front. It 
appeared to be directed chiefly on the wire entanglements and not 
on the trenches, and at first the hinterland was scarcely touched. 
The " preparation " was intense and incessant, but it bore no rela- 
tion to the overwhelming destruction which had preluded Neuve 
Chapelle and the Donajetz, Loos, and Verdun. It seemed rather 
like the local bombardments which preceded the trench raids of 
the winter — only it fell everywhere ; and when, late on the Satur- 
day, the Austrian High Command realized this, they grew puzzled, 
and cast about for an explanation. 

They were not left long in doubt. The work of the Russian 
guns was short — twelve hours only in some places, and nowhere 
more than twenty hours. The Austrian trenches had been little 



7 o A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

damaged, but alleys had been ploughed in the wire before them. 
On the morning of Monday, 5th June, between the Pripet and the 
Pruth, punctually to the hour, the waves of Russian infantry 
crossed their parapets. 

It will be convenient, in considering a series of actions of the 
first order in magnitude and complexity, to take the different 
sections of the battle-ground in sequence, and carry the narrative 
of the events in each to the close of the first stage of the forward 
movement. The sections were five in number — that from Kolki 
northwards to the Pripet, where Kaledin's right was engaged with 
Linsingen ; that between Kolki and Dubno, the Volhynian Triangle, 
where Kaledin's left and Sakharov's right faced the Austrian 
IV. Army ; that between Dubno and Zalostse, where Sakharov's 
left was in conflict with Boehm-Ermolli ; that between Zalostse 
and the Dniester, where, in front of Tarnopol, Tcherbachev engaged 
Bothmer ; and the corridor between the Dniester and the Pruth, 
where Lechitski faced Pflanzer-Baltin. It was in the second and 
fifth of these sections that the first fortnight of June showed the 
chief results. 

North of Kolki, where the brimming swamps still made progress 
difficult, little impression was made on Linsingen's front. It was 
different in the area of the Volhynian Triangle. Between Lutsk 
and Rovno lies a district some thirty miles long from north to 
south, which is defined on these sides by the river Ikva, a con- 
fluent of the Styr, and the river Putilovka, a tributary of the 
Goryn. Here the armies of Kaledin and Sakharov made their 
great effort. About the centre lies the village of Olyka, in the 
midst of a rolling, treeless country. For the attack the Russians 
had the good Rovno-Lutsk and Rovno-Brody railways, besides the 
main Rovno-Lutsk highroad. From Olyka they pressed due west, 
and farther south they advanced down the Ikva valley along the 
Dubno-Lutsk road. By noon of the first day the Austrian front 
was completely gone. The bayonets of the Russians swept over 
the parapets, while the barrage cut off all communication with 
the rear. The result was that the elaborate Austrian trenches 
and deep dug-outs proved the veriest trap. Troops were packed 
and huddled in them without any means of escape, and were cap- 
tured in thousands by the triumphant Russian infantry. The 
Cossacks went through and rounded up those who had escaped 
the barrage. That day in Lutsk the birthday of the Archduke 
Joseph was being celebrated, when news came that the front had 
been driven in, and that the enemy was sweeping towards the 



1916] FALL OF LUTSK. 71 

Styr. Confidence was placed for a moment in the great strength 
of the Lutsk defences ; but there comes a stage in demoralization 
when no fortifications seem adequate. On Tuesday, 6th June, 
Kaledin was at its gates, and in the afternoon the Austrian army 
commander sought safety in flight. At twenty-five minutes past 
eight in the evening the Russian vanguard entered the town, and 
found an amazing booty. Batteries of heavy guns and vast stores 
of shells and material fell to the conqueror, and since there had 
been no time to evacuate the hospitals, many thousands of Austrian 
wounded were added to the total of prisoners. 

Lutsk was taken and the Styr and Ikva crossed, but it was 
necessary to broaden the wedge if an acute salient was not to be 
the result of the victory. Accordingly the next few days were 
spent in advancing north and south of Lutsk, and especially in 
winning the points where the Rovno-Lutsk and the Rovno-Brody 
railways crossed respectively the Styr and the Ikva. On 8th June 
these two points, Rojitche and Dubno, were the scene of heavy 
fighting. Next day both fell, thus giving Russia the third and last 
of the Volhynian fortresses. The Ikva was also crossed at Mlynov, 
and the advance pushed west and south-west till by the 13th 
Kozin, a village half-way between Dubno and Brody, had been 
taken, as well as Demidovka to the north-west, and all the forest 
land between. West of Lutsk the Cossacks were ranging the 
country far and wide, and by the 13th had reached Zaturtsy, half- 
way to Vladimir Volynsk, while farther north they were on the 
upper streams of the Stokhod. Kaledin and Sakharov had cut 
a semicircle out of the enemy front, of which the radius was nearly 
forty miles. Farther north Kaledin's right wing was now making 
some progress. Kolki itself fell on 13th June, and since the line 
of the upper Styr was gone, and the enemy driven back behind 
the Stokhod, Svidniki, on the latter stream, was taken after a 
violent battle, and in the crossing of the river a complete German 
battalion was captured by Siberian troops. South of the main 
battle-ground the Russian front was pushed down to the Galician 
border near Radzivilov and Alexinietz. 

By 16th June, after twelve days of fighting, Kaledin, with the 
assistance of Sakharov's right wing, had advanced some fifty miles 
from his original line. He had captured Lutsk and Dubno, he had 
reached the Galician frontier, and was at one point within twenty- 
five miles of Kovel. He had taken prisoner over 1,300 officers 
and 70,000 men, and had captured fifty- three guns and colossal 
quantities of every type of war material. After the long months 



72 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

of trench contests this sudden and dazzling sweep restored to the 
world its old notions of war. 

It was time to call a halt and await the counter-stroke. 
When the torrent first fell on the Austrian front, Hindenburg sent 
from the north such reserves as he was able to spare. Certain 
Landwehr and Landsturm regiments came from Prince Leopold's 
army in the marshes, and several German divisions from the Dvina 
front. Ludendorff was dispatched post-haste to straighten out 
the tangle, and the Volhynian part of Boehm-Ermolli's command 
was put under Linsingen. But after 16th June more formidable 
reinforcements began to appear. Austrian troops were coming 
from Tyrol and the Balkans, and German divisions were hurried 
from France. How great was the urgency may be judged from 
the fact that a German corps moved from Verdun to Kovel in six 
days. These reserves were not fresh troops, and some of them 
had been severely ground in the Verdun mill, but they were the 
best that the emergency could produce. Kovel was the danger- 
point, for if Kovel fell the main lateral communications would be 
cut between Lemberg and Brest Litovsk, between the Armies of the 
Centre and the Armies of the South. For the defence of Kovel, 
accordingly, every available man was brought into line, the new 
German army of manoeuvre under Linsingen taking to itself the 
area of the Styr and Stokhod, and the Austrians the sections from 
Vladimir Volynsk to the Bug. 

Linsingen's counter-attack opened on 16th June, and was 
pressed with gradually ebbing vigour till the end of the month. 
He did not fight with all the reinforcements he had expected, for 
on 13th June Evert, on the Russian centre, had attacked north 
of Baranovitchi ; and though he failed to break the German front, 
his thrust detained there divisions which would otherwise have 
been marching south. 

We may here conveniently summarize the various actions on 
the northern and central sections of the Russian front which were 
fought during the great Southern offensive. Baranovitchi stood 
on the plateau close to the watershed between the river Servech, 
which joined the Niemen, and the Shara, which flowed to the 
Pripet. It was an important railway junction, where the Vilna- 
Rovno line met the railway from Smolensk to Brest Litovsk. The 
possession of the place by the Germans should have cut the lateral 
communication of the Russian armies, but a switch line had been 
constructed behind their front to link up the broken part. Bara- 
novitchi, therefore, did not mean a great deal to Russia, but it 



i 9 i6] BARANOVITCHI. 73 

represented an immense amount to Germany, for it was a nodal 
point of the whole railway system between Vilna and Brest Litovsk. 
Hence any attack on the place was sure to be strongly resisted, 
and to draw in all adjacent reserves. Moreover, in the event of 
success, any gain in this region would pave the way for a converg- 
ing attack by Evert and Brussilov on Brest Litovsk. In the 
beginning of June the Russian Fourth Army, under General Ragoza, 
was facing the army group under Woyrsch. Ragoza's attack was 
most elaborately prepared by sapping up to within close distance 
of the enemy. On the morning of 13th June the bombardment 
opened, and at four in the afternoon the Russian infantry attacked 
on the front along the upper Shara. Presently the battle line 
extended farther south towards the Oginski Canal, and north to 
the upper streams of the Servech. In the early days of July, 
when Lesch and Kaledin were preparing their second offensive, 
Ragoza renewed his efforts. On 2nd July the German trenches 
received a baptism of fire which had scarcely been paralleled in 
the campaign. To the Russians it was their revenge for the Dona- 
jetz. " All the bitterness," wrote one officer, " the sufferings, 
with which was strewn the long path of our retreat, were poured 
out in this fire." But Woyrsch's men resisted stubbornly ; by 
4th July Ragoza had penetrated the enemy's lines to a depth of 
two miles on a front of twelve, but by 9th July it was clear that 
the advance had reached its limit. On 14th July Woyrsch at- 
tempted a counter-stroke without success, and thereafter the battle 
died away. It had fulfilled its purpose, for at a critical moment 
in Brussilov's movement it had disorganized the enemy's plan 
and divided his forces of resistance. The result was assisted by 
the attack of Radko Dmitrieff on 16th July with the Twelfth 
Army from the Riga bridgehead — a holding battle which lasted 
till the end of the month. 

Linsingen's aim east of Kovel was to check the enemy and wrest 
from him the initiative — to achieve a counter-stroke which would 
give a breathing space to the rest of the shattered front. In this 
object he partially succeeded, for during the fortnight Kaledin's 
triumphant course was stayed. The counter-stroke was delivered 
by three enemy groups — in the south of the salient, on the line 
Lokatchy-Gorokhov ; in the centre, between the Vladimir Volynsk- 
Lutsk road and Svidniki on the Stokhod ; and from the north, 
against the Rojitche-Kolki sector of the Styr line. 

The immediate result was that Kaledin had to retire from 
Svidniki and the western bank of the Stokhod. The action was 



74 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

now joined on the west bank of the Styr, on a line dipping south- 
west to Kisielin, at the Stokhod source. At Gadomitchi, on the 
Styr, just west of Kolki, the fighting was especially furious, and 
the place changed hands several times in the course of one day. 
At the other end of the line the village of Vorontchin, north-east 
of Kisielin, was the chief centre of the struggle. South of the 
Vladimir Volynsk road, below Lokatchy and Gorokhov, the Aus- 
trians made their main effort, attacking in massed formations and 
winning some successes. Kaledin withdrew his front on his left 
centre a matter of some five miles to the line Zaturtsy-Bludov- 
Lipa. On his right centre, apart from the retreat from Svidniki, 
he held more or less the ground he had gained. The counter-attack 
died down about 20th June, to revive with redoubled violence in 
the last days of the month. But the second effort was less success- 
ful than the first. It kept the Kovel road blocked for Kaledin, 
but it was not that crushing counter-stroke which Hindenburg 
had hoped would take the edge off the Russian temper and cripple 
the impetus of Brussilov's attack. Germany was aware that the 
offensive was only beginning in the East, and that presently the 
fires would blaze on the Western front. She strove to scotch the 
menace in one vital sector while yet there was time, but only 
succeeded in postponing it for a fortnight. 

Going south from Lutsk, we reach the sector Dubno-Zalostse, 
where Sakharov faced Boehm-Ermolli. There, with a low water- 
shed between them, run the Ikva and the Sereth, in a country of 
insignificant hills patched with oak woods and wide marshy valleys. 
Sakharov's right wing, as we have seen, had pushed far on the 
road to Brody along the railway from Dubno, and had almost 
reached the frontier station of Radzivilov. For the moment its 
role was secondary. It supported the army to the north of it, 
but did not press on towards Brody, its main objective, since 
Tcherbachev in the south had found his advance seriously 
checked. 

South of the Tarnopol-Lemberg railway the ground rises from 
the low downs of Volhynia in the great lift of the Podolian table- 
land, where the rivers flow south to the Dniester in deep-cut wooded 
canons. There the Austrian front followed for a little the course 
of the Sereth, and then struck westward to the glen of the Strypa, 
on the eastern bank of which it ran till it reached the Dniester. 
It was a countryside made by nature for defence against an enemy 
coming from the east. The approaches were open and unsheltered. 



1916] LECHITSKI'S ATTACK. 75 

and the positions themselves offered endless chances for concealing 
guns and pe.-fecting redoubts. 

Tcherbachev made his attack at three main points. The first 
was between the Tarnopol-Lemberg line and Zalostse, the second 
at the lift of the plateau around Burkanov, and the third along the 
Buczacz-Stanislau railway. In the first he was firmly held by 
Bothmer, who had rightly argued that any attack would follow 
the Tarnopol railway. At Burkanov things went better, and the 
enemy were driven in many places across the Strypa. The left 
wing of the Russian Seventh Army at Buczacz had a success com- 
parable with the great events in Volhynia. On 8th June Buczacz 
was carried, the Strypa was crossed, and the advance pushed well 
to the west of the stream. But it was clear that on no grounds 
of strategy could an army move too far forward in this section 
with Bothmer's centre unbroken to the north of it. In front of 
it lay the Dniester and the strong bridgehead of Halicz ; on its 
left lay the rugged Dniester defile with an unconquered country 
on the other bank. An advance ran the risk of being driven south- 
ward and pinned aga'nst a dangerous river line. Tcherbachev 
accordingly was compelled to stay his hand and wait upon develop- 
ments in the Bukovina. 

The corridor between the Dniester and the Pruth, which is 
the main entrance from the east into the Bukovina, afforded no 
easy access to an invader, as Ivanov had found to his cost in his 
offensive of Christmas 1915. For it is a corridor blocked by a 
range of hills, which only in the north break down into the little 
plain between Dobronovstse and the Dniester — a plain, moreover, 
which is itself blocked from the Bessarabian side by subsidiary 
foothills. At Christmas Lechitski had attempted to force the 
hills by a frontal assault, and had failed. On the north the Dniester 
formed a strong barrier, and of the three main bridgeheads, the 
two most important, Zalestchiki and Ustsie Biskupie, were in 
Austrian hands. The third, Usciezko, was Russia's, but the sur- 
rounding country did not permit of its serving as a base for a 
crossing in force. The Bukovina seemed triply armoured against 
attacks from east and north. 

Lechitski's plan was to concentrate on the dubious gap between 
Dobronovstse and Okna, for if this were once forced the line of 
the Dniester at Zalestchiki and the range of hills would both be 
turned. He had the advantage of surprise, for the result of the 
Christmas battle seems to have convinced Pflanzer-Baltin that 
his position was impregnable. The Russian general aimed at 



76 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

attacking the Okna-Dobronovstse line simultaneously from the 
east through the corridor, and from the north across the Dniester, 
where the Russian position on the left bank commanded the lower 
southern shore. On 2nd June the bombardment began, and on 
the evening of 4th June — the same day which saw Kaledin sweep- 
ing upon Lutsk — the Russian infantry crossed the river towards 
Okna and the foothills towards Dobronovstse. It was now clear 
to Pflanzer-Baltin that a desperate crisis had come upon him. 
He had under his command many of the picked troops of Hungary, 
and they were flung wildly into the breach. But they were blasted 
out of their positions by the Russian guns, and forced back in grim 
hand-to-hand struggles by the terrible Russian bayonets. By 9th 
June the Dobronovstse line had gone, and Lechitski had taken 
347 officers, including one general, 18,000 other ranks, and ten guns. 

Pflanzer-Baltin fell back along the little branch lines which led 
to Czernovitz and Kolomea, with the enemy close at his heels. 
Zalestchiki was now turned, and the Russians on 12th June had 
the bridgehead, and had pushed west to Horodenka, a great road 
junction which lies some twenty miles north-west of Czernovitz. 
With the enemy pouring across the Dniester and through the 
corridor, Pflanzer-Baltin's position was hopeless. His force began 
to break up. Most of it retreated south across the Pruth, but 
detachments went west along the road to Kolomea. On 13th 
June Lechitski was in Sniatyn, and was descending on Czernovitz 
from the north, whence Austrian officials and German professors 
were fleeing like the household of Lot from the Cities of the Plain. 
The Austrians had evacuated Sadagora, on the Czernovitz-Zalest- 
chiki road, and were now across the Pruth, attempting to hold the 
low ridge of hills on the southern bank. In nine days Lechitski 
had taken 757 officers, 37,832 other ranks, and forty-nine guns. 

On 16th June the Russians crossed the Pruth, and that night 
the military evacuation of Czernovitz began. Next day, at four 
in the afternoon, the conquerors entered the city. Pflanzer-Baltin 
was now in full retreat through southern Bukovina towards the 
Carpathians, leaving behind him masterless detachments at Stanis- 
lau, Kolomea, and along the Dniester. He seems to have hoped 
to make a stand on the Sereth, the Bukovina river of that name 
which flows into the Danube. But Lechitski gave him no time to 
halt. The day after Czernovitz fell he was across the Sereth, and 
on the 21st was thirty miles south of the capital. Columns were 
meanwhile moving westward, and were presently in Kuty and 
Pistyn, on the outskirts of Kolomea. On 23rd June Kimpolung, 



igi6] END OF FIRST STAGE. 77 

the most southerly town of the province, was taken, together with 
sixty officers and 2,000 men. The " country of the beech woods " 
was once again in Russian hands. 

On this date, 23rd June, closed the first stage of what had been 
one of the most rapid and spectacular advances in the history of 
the war. In three weeks a whole province had been reconquered ; 
Lutsk and Dubno had been retaken ; the advance was within 
twenty-five miles of Kovel, and within ten of Brody ; the prisoners 
captured numbered 4,031 officers and 194,041 of other ranks ; 219 
guns and 644 machine guns had been taken, besides vast quantities 
of all war material. Strategically, the first stages had been won 
in the attack upon the three vital places behind the enemy front 
— Kovel, Lemberg, and Stanislau. The Austrian line had been 
pierced and shattered over wide stretches, and the campaign in 
these areas translated from the rigidity of trench warfare to some- 
thing like the freedom of manoeuvre battles. For the first time 
since the beginning of the war the Russians were, as regards artil- 
lery and munitions, on terms of an approximate equality with their 
foe, and the decision lay with their incomparable foot and cavalry. 
In another matter they were on level terms — in Volhynia and at 
Buczacz they had railways to support their advance equal to those 
of their opponents. Brussilov had made brilliant use of his newly 
acquired advantages, and had conducted his vast operations with 
the skill of a master. Only the first step had been taken ; the 
movement was still far from having won a strategic decision ; but 
loss, vast and irreparable, had already been caused to the shrinking 
man-power of Austria. 

June had been a month of signal successes, but these successes 
were incomplete. Brussilov had pushed out two great wedges in 
Volhynia and the Bukovina, but he could not rest on his laurels. 
A wedge is liable to the counter-stroke unless its flanks are guarded 
by natural obstacles, and this was not the case in Volhynia, where 
the Stokhod line had not yet been won, and in the south there was 
a perpetual menace from the direction of Brody and Lemberg. 
In the Bukovina the Carpathians gave security to Lechitski's left 
when the time came that he had gained the foothills ; but Both- 
mer's army held the crossings of the middle Dniester, and till it 
was forced to retreat it prevented any advance from Buczacz 
towards Halicz. The position of Bothmer was, indeed, the crux 
of the whole matter. The Russians had found, during their great 
retreat in the summer of 1915, that in eastern Galicia they might 



78 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

be hopelessly outflanked to south and north, and yet be able to 
retire at their leisure. The parallel river canons running to the 
Dniester provided an ideal set of successive positions, and now 
Bothmer had the advantage of them. Brussilov's immediate duty, 
therefore, before moving towards his ultimate objective, was to 
straighten his front. He must carry the line of the Stokhod and 
rest his right flank on the marshes of the lower Styr and the Pripet. 
Similarly, he must take Brody, and advance his left wing in Vol- 
hynia. Above all, Bothmer must be forced back from the Strypp 
to the same longitude as the advance south of the Dniester. It 
was in such a purpose, rather than in a violent struggle for Lemberg 
or Kovel, that we must look for the motive which dominated 
Brussilov's strategy of the second stage. 

The first task was to carry forward the right flank to a position 
of safety. So soon as the German counter-attack on the Stokhod 
in the second half of June had begun to ebb, preparations were 
made for broadening the Volhynian wedge. The left wing of 
Evert's central group was the Third Army, under Lesch, the general 
who had taken over the command from Radko Dmitrieff in the 
beginning of the Great Retreat, and had distinguished himself by 
his resolute holding battles on the south flank of the Warsaw 
salient. This army was brought south from the Pripet marshes 
and put under Brussilov's charge. Kaledin drew in his right, and 
the new force lay along the Styr astride of the Kovel-Sarny railway, 
facing Linsingen. 

On 2nd July, in the Baranovitchi area, Evert's right wing, as 
we have seen, struck a second time against Woyrsch. It was an 
attack in force, supported with a good weight of artillery, and on 
a broad front the enemy's first line was carried and some thousands 
of prisoners taken. But Hindenburg was not to be caught nap- 
ping, and presently the advance, was checked with heavy Russian 
losses, and Evert's impetus died away. This thrust of the Russian 
right centre was in itself a substantive operation, designed to test 
the enemy's strength in a vital theatre. It failed to break his 
front, but it had one beneficent effect on the operations south of 
the marshes — it prevented any further reinforcement of Linsingen 
in front of Kovel at the critical moment when Lesch was about to 
strike. 

That moment came at dawn on 4th July. From Kolki to 
lorth of Rafalovka stretches a wide, wooded plain between the 
Styr and the Stokhod. In the south near Kashovka there are 
low ridges, but all to the northwards is as flat as the Libyan desert. 



1916] LESCH REACHES THE STOKHOD. 79 

Coarse grasses and poppies cover the dunes, and between them 
there are stretches of swamp and great areas of melancholy pine- 
woods. North of Rafalovka the marshy region of the Pripet 
begins, where there could be no continuous front, but only isolated 
forts on the knuckles of dry ground, connected by precarious 
trenches among the lagoons. On this marshy region Lesch had no 
designs. It was the protection he desired for his flank. His aim 
was the sandy plain beyond which, thirty miles to the west, crawled 
the sluggish Stokhod. The brilliant weather of June had dried up 
most of the swamps, and given him the one chance which might 
occur in the twelvemonth. 

The action began with such an artillery preparation as had 
not yet been seen on the Russian side. The guns opened on a 
front of more than thirty miles, pounding the Austrian positions 
east of the Styr between Kolki and Rafalovka. Soon the air was 
clouded with dust as the sand of the entrenchments was scattered 
by shell. The two main attacks were at Kolki and just north of 
Rafalovka, the salient formed by the Chartorysk position being 
cut in upon on its two flanks. By the night of 4th July Lesch 
was over the Styr north of Rafalovka, and had pushed his right 
as far as Vulka Galuzyiskaya, some twelve miles from the river 
line. Next day the latter position, defended by three lines of 
barbed-wire entanglements fitted with land mines, was carried, 
the stubborn resistance of the Bavarians at Kolki was broken 
down, and the river bridged. The following day, 6th July, Kos- 
tiukhnovka, west of Kolodye, was won, and Raznitse, north of 
Kolki. That marked the end of the Chartorysk salient. The 
apex fell back in disorder, and by the evening of 7th July the Rus- 
sian cavalry were in Manievitche station, on the Kovel-Sarny rail- 
way, about half-way between the Styr and the Stokhod, and the 
two wings of Lesch's advance had joined hands. Moreover, on his 
extreme right, on the very fringe of the marshes, he had pushed 
forward from Yeziertsky and had reached the Stokhod at Novo 
Tcherevisghe. The highroad from the latter place to Kolki by 
way of Manievitche was now wholly in his hands. On 8th July, 
in conjunction with Kaledin's right, he crossed the upper Stokhod 
at Ugly and Arsenovitche, where the river makes a sharp bend to 
the east. The Russians were now upon the Stokhod line between 
the Kovel-Rovno and the Kovel-Sarny railways. 

After the first stern grapple the enemy's retreat had become 
almost a flight. Through the dry bent of the dunes and the shat- 
tered pinewoods the Russian infantry swept forward like men 



80 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

possessed. Nothing stayed their remorseless progress. The enemy 
fired the villages as he retreated, and in that blazing midsummer 
weather Lesch advanced through a land cloudy by day and flaming 
skyward by night. And always in the van went the grey Cossack 
cavalry, clinging to the rear and flanks of the broken infantry. 
In four days Lesch had advanced twenty-five miles on a front of 
forty. He had taken 300 officers, including two regimental com- 
manders, over 12,000 unwounded men, forty-five guns, including 
some heavy batteries, and large quantities of machine guns, am- 
munition, and military stores. Above all, he had won his imme- 
diate strategic purpose. The right flank of the Volhynian wedge 
was secured against any counter-stroke. 

But now that the Stokhod was reached, the problem became 
harder. Kovel, that vital centre, was only some twenty odd miles 
distant, and on it converged the two railways which had been the 
Russian lines of supply. It was clear that Linsingen would fight 
desperately to cover his citadel. The Stokhod was a marshy 
stream with wide beds of reeds on either side, and on the western 
bank the ground rose slightly, so as to give the defence better 
observation. An alternative position had been prepared there 
during the previous autumn, and every nerve was now strained 
to make it impregnable. Though the river had been crossed at 
various points, yet the river line was far from being won, and about 
the middle of July the Russian advance had begun to stagnate 
into ordinary trench warfare. 

It was about this time that the Russian High Command saw 
fit to announce to the world their intention. " On the issue of 
these battles," so ran the communique, " undoubtedly depends not 
only the fate of Kovel and its strongly fortified zone, but also to 
a great degree all the present operations on our front. In the event 
of the fall of Kovel, new and important perspectives will open out 
for us, for the road to Brest Litovsk, and in some degree the roads 
to Warsaw, will be uncovered." This was not the usual language 
of the Russian Staff, nor was it the language of a prudent general 
who did not desire to share his secrets with the enemy. It is diffi- 
cult to regard the announcement as other than a ruse. Brussilov 
wished Hindenburg to believe that he intended to break his teeth 
on Kovel as the Crown Prince had broken his on Verdun, and 
thereby to delude him as to the direction of the next effort. For, 
after his fashion, the Russian commander was making plans elsewhere. 

So far the Russian Eleventh Army, under Kuropatkin's old 
Chief of Staff, had played a lesser role than those of Kaledin and 



1916] LINSINGEN'S COUNTER-STROKE. 81 

Lechitski. Its right wing had, indeed, crossed the Ikva and col- 
laborated with Kaledin in the thrust south of Lutsk to the Galician 
border. But now it was cast for a major part, for against the south 
side of the Lutsk salient Linsingen proposed to institute a great 
offensive, which should do more than counterbalance the Russian 
gain on the Stokhod. The Austrian line, held by Boehm-Ermolli's 
left wing, ran — after the Russian withdrawal of the second half of 
June — from the village of Shklin by Ugrinov and Mikhailovka to 
the Styr, and then south across the little Plashevka through wooded 
hills to the frontier town of Radzivilov. It was served by the 
many roads leading from Lemberg, by the Lemberg-Brody railway, 
and, so far as concerned its left wing, by the Lemberg-Stoyanov 
line. There, in the second week of July, fresh divisions were in 
process of concentration, some brought from as far afield as the 
Dvina, Verdun, and the Trentino. An attack in force would, it 
was hoped, drive back Kaledin behind Lutsk and Dubno, force 
Lesch to retreat from the Stokhod, and wipe out Brussilov's Vol- 
hynian gains. The date of the great effort was fixed for 18th July. 

Brussilov got wind of the plan, and resolved to strike hard and 
quick before the danger had time to mature. Sakharov began to 
move during the night of 15th July. During the next two days 
he forced Boehm-Ermolli's centre back upon the upper Styr. At 
the same time he struck against the line Bludov-Zlotchevka, 
farther north. On 16th July, pivoting on Bludov, he turned the 
Austrian flank, and shepherded it southward for seven miles. At 
Mikhailovka on that day he took three huge ammunition dumps 
which Linsingen had prepared for his army's offensive. The enemy 
in this sector was back at Gorokhov, where he endeavoured in vain 
to regain ground by counter-attacks. On that one day, 16th July, 
Sakharov took 317 officers, 12,637 men, and thirty guns. 

Then the dry weather broke, and torrential rains fell, as at the 
same date they fell on the Somme. But in spite of the difficult 
country Sakharov did not halt. He was advancing in a half-moon, 
forcing the enemy from the north against the Lipa, and from the 
east against the Styr. On 20th July he attacked and carried 
Berestechko, where, in the seventeenth century, John Casimir, 
King of Poland, had routed the invading Tartars ; and next day 
he crossed the Styr, having in this action taken 300 officers and 
12,000 men. He had driven a wedge between the Austrian IV. 
Army and Bothmer by his defeat of Boehm-Ermolli, and was 
now in effect swinging south to operate against the left wing of 
Bothmer's army on the Sereth and the Strypa. 



82 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

By 22nd July the Austrians began to evacuate Brody, remem- 
bering the fate of Lutsk. It was a place which might have been 
stoutly defended, for Boehm-Ermolli had his left on the Styr, and 
in front of his centre had the curve of the river Slonovka, a broad 
marsh, and more than a hundred square miles of forest. On his 
right he had the wooded hills at the source of the Ikva. Sakharov 
began his attack early on the morning of 25th July. The 
Russian infantry, creeping through the dark before the summer 
dawn, crossed the swamp of the Slonovka and forded the stream. 
In the centre they fought their way yard by yard through the 
dense forest west of Radzivilov, and after six attempts took the 
village of Opariptse. On the morning of 27th July the centre and 
right came into line, and by the evening had carried the Klekotov 
position five miles from Brody. Meantime the Russian left wing, 
which had met with less opposition, emerged from the forests 
south-east of the town. The fate of the place was now sealed, 
and at 6.30 on the morning of 28th July Sakharov entered Brody, 
which had been Boehm-Ermolli's headquarters. The battle, one 
of the bloodiest and sternest fought in the campaign, had been 
planned out in every detail beforehand by the Russian commander, 
and Brody fell within twenty-four hours of the scheduled time. 
In the three days' fight the Eleventh Army took 210 officers and 
13,569 men, bringing the total of its captures since 16th July to 
940 officers and 39,152 of other ranks. Forty-nine guns were part 
of the immense miscellaneous booty. 

Even then Sakharov did not rest. The railway running south- 
ward from Brody to Lemberg joins at the town of Krasne the 
great trunk line which runs south-east through Tarnopol to Odessa. 
The new Russian front between Brody and Zalostse ran roughly 
parallel with that line, which was Bothmer's main avenue of com- 
munication — some twenty miles distant at Brody, and only ten 
at Zalostse. But to reach it a tangled region of forest and mere 
had to be crossed, where the Styr, the Bug, the Sereth, and the 
Strypa had their springs. All these valleys with their enclosing 
ridges ran at right angles to any Russian advance, and would give 
the enemy an endless series of strong alternative positions. Only 
one road crossed the wilderness, that from Brody to Zloczow ; 
another farther east stopped short half-way at Pienaki. 

The Austrians seem to have expected that Sakharov would 
move towards Krasne on the way to Lemberg. Instead he advanced 
due south, crossing the ridges east of the most difficult country, to 
the Pienaki-Podkamien line. This brought his front parallel to 



1916] THE FAILURE OF THE GUARD ARMY. 83 

Bothmer's main communications. On 4th August he attacked 
the line Nushche-Zagozhe, while Tcherbachev's right from Zalostse 
attacked also towards the Sereth. By the next evening Sakharov 
had won all the villages around the upper Sereth, and the following 
day, 6th August, was as far south as Reniov, not eight miles from 
the Tarnopol line. In three days he had taken 166 officers and 
8,415 men. On 10th August he was in Nesterovtse, less than 
five miles from the railway. Bothmer's flank had been com- 
pletely turned. 

Meantime in Poliesia the new Guard Army, under Bezobrazov, 
had been brought south and placed between Lesch and Kaledin. 
On 28th July, just after midday, it attacked along the upper Stok- 
hod. In the first hours of the fighting it broke through the enemy 
position, and took thirty-eight guns and 4,000 prisoners, mostly 
German. The river was crossed at many points, the cavalry 
went through, and two days later at one place the Russians were 
more than five miles west of the Stokhod. Linsingen was forced 
to relinquish the bend of the river at Kashovka, and fell back 
to a fresh set of prepared positions. But he was now on the alert, 
and the defence, laboriously constructed since the opening of 
the offensive on 4th June, proved too strong to be broken. On 
2nd August the Russians were on the line Sitovitche-Yanovka, 
and next day made a desperate attack on the German position 
at the village of Rudka Mirynska. They carried the place, but it 
formed so acute a salient that, under pressure of counter-attacks, 
they were compelled to relinquish it. This action was the one 
serious failure in the operations — a failure due to imperfect recon- 
naissance and a complete lack of co-ordination. By the evening 
of 9th August 532 officers and 54,770 rank and file had fallen, and 
these the elite of the Russian armies. 

The control of the Bukovina, which Lechitski had won in June, 
had little direct effect upon the campaign in Galicia. The province 
was strategically self-contained, or rather its importance lay in 
relation to Rumania, since it possessed all the gates into Moldavia. 
Its road and railway system was in no way vital to the Galician 
armies, as was proved in the previous year, when Russia held nearly 
all Galicia and most of the Carpathian passes without control of 
the Bukovina. But any advance from the east pushed to the west 
of Kolomea must bring Lechitski into contact with Bothmer's 
most indispensable communications. Above Halicz the Dniester 
flows through wide belts of marsh, and below Nizniov it enters 



84 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

a rugged canon ; the good crossings — two railways and three roads 
— were all between these two towns. The southern Galician trunk 
line ran from Stry to Stanislau and Buczacz, and was the main 
feeder of Bothmer' s right wing. Moreover, one of the principal 
connections with Hungary was the line running from Stanislau 
by Delatyn to Maramaros Sziget, crossing the Jablonitza Pass. If 
Lechitski took Kolomea, he would cut one of the loops of the 
Hungarian line which ran from Delatyn by Kolomea to Stanislau ; 
if he reached Delatyn, he could cut the line altogether ; if he took 
Stanislau, he would cut the Stry-Buczacz railway ; and if he forced 
the Dniester crossings between Halicz and Nizniov, he would 
turn Bothmer's southern flank, and make his position on the Strypa 
wholly untenable. 

Part of the debris of Pflanzer-Baltin's army retreated, as we have 
seen, in the direction of Stanislau, and passed under Bothmer's 
command, so that Bothmer's right wing was now holding the 
Dniester crossings from Halicz to Nizniov. Lechitski's first busi- 
ness was to take Kolomea. On 28th June he attacked the Austrians 
east of that town on the line Niezviska-Pistyn, stretching from the 
Dniester to the Carpathians. Partly owing to a brilliant flanking 
movement in the north by the Russian cavalry, the Austrian 
position collapsed like sand, and that evening 221 officers and 10,285 
men were added to the total of prisoners. The following day, 29th 
June, the Russians entered Kolomea, to find that the enemy had 
retreated in such haste that the six railways and six highroads 
which converge there were scarcely damaged. 

The next stroke must be against the Maramaros Sziget-Stanislau 
railway ; but it proved impossible to march up the Pruth valley 
straight on Delatyn. Accordingly Lechitski's left wing moved 
southward over the wooded hills around Berezov, while his right 
wing, in conjunction with Tcherbachev's troops north of the 
Dniester, advanced against Tlumatch. On the last day of June 
the latter place was carried, principally by a brigade of Circassian 
cavalry, who charged the trench lines without any previous artillery 
preparation. This success compelled Bothmer on the north bank 
to fall back several miles to conform to the Austrian withdrawal. 
The Russians were now within ten miles of the vital Dniester cross- 
ings, and the enemy made a desperate effort to stay their progress. 
On 2nd July, Bothmer, having received German reinforcements, 
counter-attacked, and compelled Lechitski to give a little ground 
and relinquish Tlumatch. The advance of his right wir-g was for 
the moment stayed. 



k 



I 



BRUSSILOVS ADVANCE IN GALICIA. 




TSRTTTfrTSira 



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AiOUAD Hi 30HAVQA 3'V iflS 



1916] CAPTURE OF STANISLAU. 85 

Meantime his left flank and centre were carrying all before them. 
On 30th June the left wing was in Pistyn and Berezov ; on 3rd 
July it was only six miles from the Maramaros Sziget-Stanislau 
railway, and next day it cut the line. The centre pressed on against 
Delatyn itself, and on 8th July the place was captured. The first 
vital strategic objective of Lechitski's advance had been attained. 
During the fighting between 23rd June and 7th July he had taken 
prisoner 674 officers and 30,875 men, and had captured eighteen 
guns. 

The July rains were now beginning. The Dniester and the 
Pruth were in roaring flood, and all the country south of Stanislau 
was under water. In such conditions a halt had to be called in the 
most ardent advance, and only the left wing of the Russians, now 
among the Carpathian heights, could find dry ground on which 
to operate. For nearly a month the lull continued, and then on 
7th August Lechitski struck again. This time it was on his right 
wing, towards Stanislau and the Dniester crossings. That day he 
recaptured Tlumatch, and reached the Dniester close to Nizniov. 
Next day Tcherbachev, north of the river, crossed the Kuropiets 
and came into line. On 9th August Khryplin, the railway junction 
south of Stanislau, was taken, and the Austrians evacuated the 
latter town. On 10th August Lechitski entered Stanislau. Next 
day, too, Tcherbachev was across the Zlota Lipa north of Nizniov. 

Bothmer's position was now very grave. Sakharov, in the 
north, was close to the Lemberg-Tarnopol railway, which fed his 
left wing ; Lechitski had cut the Maramaros Sziget line, and by his 
capture of Stanislau had cut also the Stry-Buczacz line, which fed 
his right wing. Moreover, Tcherbachev was actually round his 
flank north of Nizniov. There was nothing for it but retreat. 
The army which had made so stalwart a stand must bend its 
neck at last. Bothmer's right fell back from the Strypa upon 
the Zlota Lipa, his centre to Brzezany, and his left to behind 
Zborov, on the Lemberg-Tarnopol railway. With this retirement 
the second phase of Brussilov's offensive ended. It left the enemy 
in an awkward position, with both Kovel and Lemberg menaced 
by unbroken armies, and with Lechitski south of the Dniester, 
well on Bothmer's right rear. 

The significance of the ten marvellous weeks which had elapsed 
since Brussilov launched his thunderbolt was not to be computed 
in mere gain of ground. Alexeiev played for a great stake, and had 
no care for petty reconquests. It was not the regaining of the 



86 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

Volhynian fortresses or the Bukovina that mattered, but the fact 
that the enemy in his retreat had been compelled to lengthen his 
front by at least two hundred miles, and was left with fewer men to 
hold it. A retreat in most cases shortens a line ; in the East the 
German-Austrian front was straight to begin with, and retirement 
made it sag and dip so that its total length was greatly increased. 
Over 300,000 prisoners had been taken, and the dead and badly 
wounded may have amounted to twice as many again. 

How desperate was the crisis may be judged by the steps which 
Hindenburg took to meet it. During June, while the front on the 
West was quiet except at Verdun, Germany transferred thence 
four complete divisions and a number of odd battalions, making a 
total of some seventy-three battalions. When the Somme battle 
began, her power of reinforcement was seriously crippled ; but 
the necessity was urgent, and she continued to send divisions — 
exhausted divisions, whose fighting value was gravely reduced. 
In July, for example, she transferred from West to East three 
divisions and some odd battalions, making a total of thirty-seven 
battalions. The process continued during August and September. 
To anticipate — if we take the period between 4th June and the 
middle of September, we find that Germany sent in the way of 
reinforcements to the line north of the Pripet an infantry division 
from the West, and to the line south of the Pripet sixteen infantry 
divisions and three cavalry divisions from north of the Pripet, 
fifteen divisions from the West, and one division from the Balkans. 
Austria brought to the area south of the Pripet seven divisions 
from the Italian front — divisions ill to spare, since Cadorna was 
busy with his counter-offensive. Finally, two Turkish divisions, 
the 19th and 20th, were brought west and given to Bothmer. 
There can be no difference of opinion as to the vigour and resource 
which the German Staff, with their ally almost out of action, 
showed in meeting the danger. But the rushing of wearied troops 
across the breadth of Europe was an expedient such as no sane 
commander would contemplate except in the last necessity. 

Austria's disasters led to a complete revision of the Eastern 
commands. A new army, called at first the XII. and afterwards 
the III., was formed to take position between Bothmer and Pflanzer- 
Baltin. From 30th July Hindenburg was put in command of the 
whole Eastern front, except the three southernmost armies, which, 
as a solace to Austrian sentiment, were made a group-command for 
the heir-apparent, the Archduke Charles, a young gentleman of 
twenty-nine. The Archduke Joseph Ferdinand, commanding the 



1916] REARRANGEMENT OF ENEMY FRONT. 87 

Austrian IV. Army, and Pflanzer-Baltin, commanding the VII. 
Army, vanished into obscurity. Von Tersztyansky took the Arch- 
duke Joseph's place, and a new VII. Army was formed under von 
Kirchbach. The front was thus apportioned between crabbed age 
and youth. The Austro-German dispositions were now from north 
to south : Eichhorn's group, comprising his own X. Army, the 
German VIII. Army (Otto von Below), and Scholtz's detachment ; 
Prince Leo; old's group, comprising the German XII. Army (Fabeck), 
and the German IX. Army (Woyrsch) ; Linsingen's group, compris- 
ing his own army of the Bug, the Austrian IV. Army (Tersztyansky), 
and the Austrian II. Army (Boehm-Ermolli). All these were under 
Hindenburg. In the south the Archduke Charles had in his group 
Bothmer's Army, the Austrian III. Army (Kovess), and the Aus- 
trian VII. Army (Kirchbach). The point had all but been reached 
when the supreme command of the Central Powers would be 
formally vested in Germany's hands. 

As against these kaleidoscopic changes the Russian battle-front 
remained the same as on 4th June, save that in August Kuropatkin 
became Governor-General of Turkestan, and Russki returned once 
again to the Northern Command. Ten weeks of constant fighting 
had welded the armies into a formidable weapon. The new thing, 
the tremendous fact which emerged from the battle, was that Russia 
had shown that she could adapt herself to modern warfare, and 
could create a machine to put her manhood on even terms with 
the enemy. The staff work, too, had been admirable, and the 
patient sagacity of the leadership beyond praise. Alexeiev, 
Brussilov, and each of the four army commanders had revealed 
conspicuous military talent. The battles were generals' battles 
as much as soldiers' battles — they were won in the brain of the 
High Command before they were won in the field. But the effort 
had stretched her powers to their extreme limits ; it was her flood- 
mark, which could not be passed — which, unhappily, could not be 
reached again. 



CHAPTER LVIII. 

THE BATTLE OF VERDUN — SECOND STAGE. 
May 3-August 8, 1916. 

Position at Verdun in May — Loss of Mort Homme — The French attack Douau- 
mont — Loss of Fort Vaux — The last German Attacks at Fleury and Thiau- 
mont — End of the Main Battle. 



The first stage of the Battle of Verdun ended on 9th April with the 
defeat of the German purpose. Defeat, indeed, had befallen the 
Imperial Crown Prince weeks before, ever since the merciless usury 
of Petain had forced his enemy to pay a price in excess of any pos- 
sible gain. Verdun had long ago passed out of the sphere of pure 
strategy into that of politics. It had become a fatal magnet, 
drawing to itself the German strategic reserves, not for military 
ends, but because the High Command had burned its boats and 
could not retire. They had staked their reputation on the capture 
of the little city, and without grave loss of credit could not break 
off the action. Towards the end of April the French Staff believed 
that the battle was virtually over ; but they overestimated the 
capacity of their opponents for the rigour of the game. Germany 
dared not take the heroic course — her commitments were too 
deep ; and a second battle was about to begin, not less desperate 
than the first, in which her sole purpose was, by blind blows on a 
narrow front, to wear down the French strength. The significance 
of Verdun itself had long since gone. It mattered very little for 
the main interests of the campaign whether or not a German 
soldier set foot in its shattered streets. Germany's own hope was 
to weaken what she still believed to be the waning man-power of 
France, and to forestall the combined Allied attack which since 
Christmas had been her nightmare. 

In April Petain succeeded Langle de Cary as commander of the 
central secteur, from Soissons to Verdun. His promotion to one 
of the three group commands was a well-deserved tribute to his 
superb achievement. He was succeeded in the command of the 



igi6] THE FRENCH LINE IN MAY. 89 

Second Army by Nivelle, who, like Petain, had at the outbreak of 
war been only a colonel. As we have seen, during April there was 
no great action in the Verdun section, but only minor attacks and 
counter-attacks and an intermittent bombardment. At the end 
of the month the French line lay as follows : — From Avocourt, in 
the west, it ran through the eastern fringes of the Avocourt Wood 
covering the famous redoubt, along the slope of Hill 287, and across 
the northern slopes of Hill 304 ; dipped into the ravine of the 
Esnes branch of the Forges brook ; climbed the western slopes of 
Mort Homme, covering the summit ; then fell back to the south 
of the Goose's Crest, and reached the Meuse at Cumieres. On the 
right bank of the river the line ran on the south side of the Cote du 
Poivre, through the Wood of Haudromont, along the south side of 
the Douaumont ridge, just short of the crest ; dipped into the Vaux 
glen, passing through the western skirts of Vaux village, and then 
ran south along the eastern scarp of the Heights of the Meuse, 
covering Vaux fort. 

The position on the left bank was curious. At Hill 304 the 
French front was in the shape of a horseshoe facing north, with 
the ends in Avocourt Wood and in the gully of the Esnes brook 
and the centre flung well forward on the north side of the ridge. 
East of Mort Homme the position was reversed. There the German 
front was the horseshoe facing south, having one end in the Esnes 
gully, and the other north of Cumieres, while the centre bulged 
over the crest well into the Wood of Cumieres. Obviously this 
position, in the shape of the letter S lying on its side, exposed 
both combatants to the danger of flanking attacks, and it was the 
object of the German Command to straighten it out. Such a 
straightening would give them Hill 304 and Mort Homme, which 
had been the key-points of the first battle in this section. But at 
the end of April these had not the importance they bore in early 
March. The main French position was now well behind, towards 
the Charny ridge. It should be remembered that on the left bank 
of the Meuse the Germans were still fighting for positions correspond- 
ing to those which they had won on the right bank in the first week 
of the battle. The Hill 304-Mort Homme line was paralleled on 
the east by the Louvemont ridge. Charny was the line parallel to 
Douaumont. 

The second stage of the Battle of Verdun divides itself naturally 
into three main episodes. First came the attempt of the German 
right wing to carry Hill 304 and Mort Homme, and press the French 
back on their last position — an attempt which succeeded in its 



90 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

immediate but failed in its ultimate purpose. The second, simul- 
taneous with the first operation, was a vigorous counter-attack by 
the French on the Douaumont ridge. The third — the last phase 
of the battle — was a concentrated German assault from Douau- 
mont against the last line covering Verdun, which gave them the 
fort of Vaux, the work of Thiaumont, and for a moment the village 
of Fleury, and brought them within four miles of the walls of Verdun. 



I. 

After a week of inaction there began on the 3rd of May a steady 
and violent bombardment of the north slope of Hill 304, more than 
a hundred German batteries concentrating on the narrow front. 
Not only were the French first lines bombarded, but the crest of 
the slope behind them became one mass of spouting volcanoes, 
which resulted in changing the shape of the sky-line to an ob- 
server looking north from Verdun. All that night the fire con- 
tinued ; the trenches were obliterated, and the defence sheltered 
as best it could in shell holes. There was a lull on the morning 
of the 4th, and then the artillery began again, and continued 
with increasing fury till the afternoon. At four o'clock recon- 
noitring parties of German infantry advanced, and were beaten 
back by French rifle fire. At five o'clock the enemy made a massed 
attack. Most of the French advanced troops had been buried, 
their rifles broken, and their machine guns put out of action by 
the bombardment. The result was that the Germans occupied a 
considerable stretch of the first line north of Hill 304. That same 
day the French had themselves attacked at Mort Homme, and 
pushed their left horn forward. 

On the night of the 4th there was a brilliant French counter- 
attack at Hill 304, which pressed the enemy back at the point 
of danger which he. held just above the Esnes ravine. On the 
5th the German bombardment moved a little westward, and 
attacked the ragged little coppice called the Camard Wood, just 
south of the Haucourt-Avocourt road. There lay the French 
66th Regiment of Infantry, one of whose captains has described 
that devastating fire. It began at four o'clock in the morning, 
and lasted till 3.30 p.m. " The dug-out in which I was was hewn 
out of solid rock, but it swayed like a boat on a stormy sea, and 
you could not keep a candle alight in it. The Camard Wood that 
morning had had the appearance of a wood, though all tattered and 
broken ; but by the evening it had lost all semblance of anything 



1916] FIGHT FOR MORT HOMME. 91 

but a patch of earth." At 3.30 p.m. the enemy's infantry attacked ; 
but the heroic 66th and 32nd Regiments had still a sting left in 
them. With their rifle fire they halted the advancing waves, and 
then small parties of gallant men leaped from the wreckage of 
their trenches and charged with the bayonet. It was sufficient 
to check the enemy's advance. That night and the next day 
there was a lull, except for the steady bombardment. 

On Sunday, 7th May, came a more formidable assault. It was 
delivered on all three sides of Hill 304 — from the Wood of Avocourt, 
from the direction of Haucourt, and in the ravine of the Esnes 
stream between Hill 304 and Mort Homme. An intense bombard- 
ment began at dawn, and a barrage cut off all communication with 
the rear. The Germans attacked with the equivalent of an army 
corps, by far the most considerable attempt yet made in this part 
of the front. Five times during that Sunday they advanced, and 
five times they were thrown back. In the last attack they carried 
the communication trench east of Hill 304, and pushed up the 
ravine. The French promptly counter-attacked, and after a stern 
struggle lasting well into the darkness they recovered the communi- 
cation trench, and by the morning of the 8th were able to consoli- 
date their line. But that day's fighting had altered the position. 
The crest of Hill 304 was so bare and shell-swept that it could not 
be retained, and the French line now ran just south of it, though 
they had advanced posts still on the summit ridge. That same day 
there was an action on the right bank of the Meuse, between Haudro- 
mont Wood and Douaumont, where the Germans won a slight 
advantage. North of Thiaumont farm they carried the French first 
line for 500 yards on both sides of the Fleury-Douaumont road. 

Thereafter for some days the fighting on the left bank became 
desultory. On 17th May the Germans, after their usual fashion, 
having failed in their frontal attack on Hill 304, set themselves to 
turn it from the direction of Avocourt Wood. The action began 
at six in the evening, and soon it spread over the whole front from 
Avocourt to the Meuse. On the 18th there were repeated attacks 
on the west flank ot Hill 304, and also on the north-east from the 
Esnes glen. On the 20th the bombardment became especially 
severe on Mort Homme. It will be remembered that while the 
Germans held Hill 265 the French held the true summit, Hill 295, 
but held it as a salient, for their flanks fell back sharply on both 
sides of it. About two in the afternoon the German infantry at- 
tacked the salient from north-east and north-west, and carried 
the French front lines. In the eastern part they were driven out 



92 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

again ; but in the west they held their ground, and pushed on 
towards the French second line along the slopes of Mort Homme 
directly overlooking the Esnes brook. These attacks were delivered 
with great resolution, with large numbers of men, and with utter 
recklessness of loss. By Sunday, 21st May, the summit of Mort 
Homme had passed from French hands, and their line now lay 
along the southern slopes. That same day the enemy made 
stupendous efforts to push his way up the Esnes glen. But the 
impetus had slackened, and the French were comfortable enough 
in their new positions. 

That fight for Mort Homme was one of the most costly incidents 
of the whole battle. The Germans between Avocourt and Cumieres 
used at least five divisions, partly drawn from the famous 1st 
Bavarian Corps, which had lately been on the British front. Their 
losses were enormous. The ravine of the Esnes was cumbered 
with dead, and there were slopes on Hill 304 and on Mort Homme 
where the ground was raised several metres by mounds of German 
corpses. The two crests were lost, but their value had largely 
gone. The French main position now was the front Avocourt- 
Esnes-Hill 310-the Bois Bourrus-Marre, and their lines on the 
southern slopes of the much-contested ridges were only advanced 
posts. The German success had brought them half a mile nearer 
Verdun ; but every yard of that advance had been amply paid for. 



II. 

But stern as the conflict had been, it was to become sterner 
still. From 21st February to 20th May the French artillery had 
fired 9,795,000 shells ; in the next twenty-five days they were to 
expend 4,200,000. We turn to the right bank of the Meuse, where 
Douaumont was once more to become the scene of grim fighting. 
The time had arrived for a French counter-attack to ease the pres- 
sure on the western flank. They began their bombardment some 
time on Saturday, the 20th. On the 21st they won ground on both 
flanks, capturing the Haudromont quarry, and taking a trench near 
Vaux. These attacks were designed to divert the attention of 
the enemy from the massing of troops on the French centre, 
opposite Douaumont fort. The troops chosen for the principal 
attack were the 5th Division of the 3rd Corps, who on 3rd April 
had retaken the Caillette Wood. It was one of the most famous 
of French divisions, commanded by Mangin, who had been with 
Marchand on his great African journey ; had fought under Lyautey 



1916] FRENCH ATTACK ON DOUAUMONT. 93 

in Morocco ; and had won great honour at every stage since the 
retreat from the Sambre. On 21st April he had issued an order 
to his men : " You are about to re-form your depleted ranks. 
Many of you will return home, and will bear with you to your 
families the warlike ardour and the thirst for vengeance which 
inspire you. But there is no rest for us French so long as the 
barbarous enemy treads the sacred soil of our fatherland. There 
is no peace for the world till the monster of Prussian militarism 
has been laid low. Therefore prepare yourselves for new battles, 
when you will have full confidence in your superiority over an enemy 
whom you have so often seen to flee and surrender before your 
bayonets and grenades. You are certain of that now. Any 
German who enters a trench of the 5th Division is dead or a pris- 
oner ; any ground seriously attacked by the 5th Division is cap- 
tured ground. You march under the wings of Victory." 

The assault was fixed for Monday, 22nd May. As the sun rose 
the German kite balloons appeared in regular lines over the horse- 
shoe of upland. But at 8 a.m. a French airplane squadron was 
seen hovering above the German " sausages." They had with 
them a bomb, now used for the first time, which in falling burst 
into a shower of lesser bombs, each of which in turn gave out minute 
particles of a burning chemical. In a few minutes six of the German 
kite balloons had exploded in flames. The infantry, waiting in 
the trenches, watched the spectacle with joy. " We have now 
bandaged the Boche's eyes," said one to another. The Germans, 
scenting the new peril, kept up a ceaseless fire of shrapnel, to which 
the French replied, till the firmament twanged like a taut fiddle- 
string. At ten minutes to twelve precisely the men of the 10th 
Brigade of the 3rd Division rose from their trenches. 

The whole operation had been most skilfully planned. The 
French were close up to the fort, only some 350 yards distant. 
The Germans had dug trench lines south of it, but it would appear 
that these and the wire entanglements had been largely destroyed 
by the French fire. The 129th Regiment of Infantry was directed 
against the fort itself, while on the left the 36th Regiment and on 
the right the 74th Regiment moved in support. The French 
streamed from their cover in open order, and with unfaltering 
resolution made straight for the fort. The 129th Regiment in ten 
minutes was inside the south-west angle of the defence. At noon 
precisely a Bengal light was burned, and the watchers behind 
knew that the centre had won its objective. 

On the left the 36th Regiment stormed all the German trenches 



94 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

up to the Douaumont-Fleury road. Inside the fort the 129th 
pushed on, righting from yard to yard of the honeycombed debris. 
It took all the western and southern parts, and the north side 
up to the northern angle. Engineers were put in to organize the 
defence, and machine-gun battalions were brought up to hold the 
captured positions. In the first hour over a hundred prisoners 
were sent back from the fort. The only hitch was on the right, 
where the 74th Regiment found a harder task. Its left had 
advanced rapidly ; but its right was hung up by the cross-fire 
from the German trenches, where the bombardment had been 
less effective. The result was that the Germans were able to 
maintain themselves in the north-eastern corner. 

All day the fighting in the fort went on. The French by the 
evening held two-thirds of the position, and had consolidated their 
defence. The counter-attack did not come till darkness had fallen. 
About 10 p.m. great masses of German troops assembled east of 
Hardaumont Wood, and a furious bombardment was directed on 
the French lines west of the fort. An infantry attack followed, 
which made a little ground. In the fort itself the new garrison 
won some yards during the darkness. From daybreak on the 23rd 
there was a steady bombardment, and many infantry attacks on 
the position. But the 129th Regiment, though losing heavily, 
clung to their gains, and when next morning the whole brigade was 
relieved, it had the proud consciousness that it had yielded not 
an inch of the ground it had won. On that day, however, two 
fresh Bavarian divisions came up in the cover of the ravines in the 
Wood of La Vauche and the Bezonvaux glen, and attacked in 
front and in flank. It was not Nivelle's plan to continue a costly 
struggle beyond the point which in his eyes marked the profitable 
limit. The fort was retaken by the Germans, but the French 
managed to retain on its east and west flanks some of the trenches 
they had won. 

Meantime the battle had waxed hotter on its western flank. 
On Tuesday, 23rd May, the Germans made a great effort to debouch 
from the new positions they had gained at Mort Homme, and to 
straighten their front. Under a terrific curtain fire from the French 
heavy guns they attempted to push their left wing into Cumieres 
between the Meuse and the hill, and to advance their right wing 
up the Esnes ravine. Again and again they failed, for they could 
not establish themselves close enough to the French to forbid the 
latter the use of their high-explosive barrage. But at last, in the 
Esnes glen, largely by means of liquid fire, they managed to carry 



i 9 i6] LOSS OF MORT HOMME. 95 

the French front trenches. During the night the German left, de- 
bouching from the woods of Cumieres and Caurettes, and pushing 
along the Meuse bank, managed to gain a footing in Cumieres 
village. This, it will be remembered, they had temporarily 
achieved before in the great attack of gth April. The place became 
a slaughter-house, and the day of Wednesday, 24th May, was one 
of the bloodiest since the opening of the battle. By the evening the 
enemy had won all Cumieres, and had pushed his infantry along 
the railway line almost to Chattancourt station. A French counter- 
attack drove him back to Cumieres, and the fighting became 
desperate in the thickets and the low ground between the railway 
and the river. The French main position was now defined as 
Chattancourt-the south slopes of Hill 304-Avocourt. Both 
Mort Homme and Hill 304 were lost. 

Till the end of the month the struggle continued. On the even- 
ing of Friday, the 26th, the French, attacking from the east, got 
into the skirts of Cumieres village. On Sunday evening, the 28th, 
there was an abortive German attack from the Crows' Wood against 
the French trenches on the south slopes of Mort Homme. After 
that there came a great bombardment, which lasted through most 
of Monday, the 29th — the hundredth day of the battle. At three 
in the afternoon of that day German forces attacked all along the 
front between Avocourt and the river, in a great attempt to drive 
the French from their position on the south slopes of Hill 304 and 
Mort Homme. There were now five fresh divisions in action — 
two of them being from the general reserve at Cambrai, and two 
from the VI. Army — and the enemy's immediate aim was to carry 
the salient between Mort Homme and Cumieres. It was the last 
great effort on the western side of the river, and it won only the 
ground which artillery fire had made untenable. The French first- 
line trenches south of the Caurettes Wood were obliterated. There 
was also a big attack from Cumieres towards Chattancourt, which 
French counter-attacks drove back to its old line. In those days 
there was seen what was up to date the heaviest bombardment 
of the whole campaign. Both in number of shells and in casualties 
in a limited area all records were surpassed. But no result was 
obtained. On the last day of May the French position was un- 
broken ; they had not even been forced back upon their main 
defences ; and the road to Verdun by the left bank of the Meuse 
was as firmly held as when, on 2nd March, the guns first opened 
from the Wood of Forges. 



96 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

III. 

The battle was to end as it had begun — on the Heights of the 
Meuse. While the struggle had been furious at Mort Homme the 
Germans had made certain useful gains on the right bank. On 
25th May they had recaptured Haudromont quarry and extended 
their hold across the upper part of Thiaumont ravine. On the 27th 
they pushed their right wing to the south-west border of that part 
of the big Haudromont Wood which was called variously the Wood 
of Thiaumont and the Wood of Nawe. On Monday, the 29th, the 
heavy guns began near Vaux a " preparation " which warned 
Nivelle of what was coming. With mathematical exactness the 
German effort had swung from flank to flank, and the failure which 
was presently announced on the left bank meant a new effort on 
the right. There they were within five miles of Verdun, and the 
recapture of Douaumont fort and their possession of the rest of 
the Douaumont crest gave them direct observation over all the 
intervening ground. From about the same position which they 
held on 26th February they were to make, after a hundred days, 
their final effort to gain what they had promised themselves to win 
in four. One-sixth of the whole artillery of the German army was 
assembled there, and the Emperor had ordered that Verdun should 
fall by 1 6th June. 

The German plan was an advance in front and flank to turn the 
inner fortified line which defended the city, and to make the flank- 
ing movement possible they must first carry the fort of Vaux. 
That fort — obsolete, declassed and dismantled, and now a mere 
point d'appui in the field line — had, since Douaumont was lost, 
become the key-point of the French defence on the plateau. It 
covered the glen of Vaux, and all the eastern approaches to the 
great fort of Souville. For twenty-six hours the enemy guns 
played on the French lines, and then on 1st June their infantry 
carried the remains of the Caillette Wood, won the ground south of 
Vaux pond, and fought their way into the Fumin Wood. At the 
same time an attack was delivered from Damloup in the east, 
a village from which the French were compelled to retire. The 
German aim was to make two converging assaults — from the north- 
west along the ridge from the Fumin Wood, and from the south-east 
up the gully from Damloup. 

All the day of Friday, the 2nd, and Saturday, the 3rd, the con- 
test continued. Wave after wave of Bavarian infantry surged up 
the hillsides, only to be mown down by the French fire. The fort 



igi6] FORT VAUX. 97 

had long ago been smashed by the heavy guns, for since March the 
enemy had directed on it a daily average of 8,000 shells ; but in 
the deep cellars the little garrison, under Major Raynal,* continued 
their resistance. The place was as bare and open as a target buoy 
at sea, and after the 2nd, when the Germans won the Fumin ridge, 
there was no direct communication between the defence and the 
French lines. This isolation had not been achieved without a 
desperate struggle. Scattered sections of trench, which till occu- 
pied prevented complete envelopment, were held by detachments 
of the 101st Regiment for three days, under torrents of bombs 
and a fire of high explosives which observers likened to a tropical 
downpour. It was not till 9 p.m. on 5th June that this gallant 
remnant retired from a fight which began early on the morning 
of 1st June. 

By the 2nd, as we have seen, the fort was cut off from news, 
for no dispatch-bearer could cross the zone of death. The defence 
tried to establish a system of signals, but the troops a mile away 
could not see them. A volunteer managed to make his way out, 
and, by shifting the position of the signallers at the other end, 
established some kind of communication. Another most gallant 
man, a stretcher-bearer of the 124th Division called Vanier, worked 
patiently among the wounded, dressing their wounds and hiding 
them in crevices among the ruins. When there were no more 
wounded to tend he went out to fetch water, for thirst was the 
supreme torment. Four hundred men had taken refuge in the 
fort, and the garrison numbered 150 ; the air was thick with fumes 
and dust ; every throat was parched, and every drop of water had 
to be brought from a distance through a land churned b}' great shells 
into the likeness of a yeasty sea. 

For five days Raynal and his men performed the patently 
impossible. Presently the enemy won the outer walls ; but the 
main building was still defended, and a machine gun in every 
cranny made it death for the invaders to enter the courtyard. The 
fight was now largely subterranean. The enemy let down baskets 
of grenades to a level with the loopholes, and tried to swing them 
through the openings so as to explode inside. The limit of human 
endurance came on Tuesday, the 6th. Raynal sent his last mes- 
sage : " We are near the end. Officers and men have done their 
whole duty. Vive la France ! " Vanier, that incomparable 
brancardier, managed to escape with a few wounded through a 

* He had only returned from sick leave on the night of 20th May. His story of 
the defence, Journal du Commandant Raynal : Le Fort de Vaux, 1919, is one of the 
best narratives produced by the war. 



98 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

grating ; and, after perilous adventures while crawling through the 
enemy's ground, most of the party reached the French lines. That 
was the last news from the fort. Raynal was removed to Mainz, 
and permitted by his captors to retain his sword. He was made 
Commander of the Legion of Honour by the French Republic, 
and at a special review at the Invalides the insignia of his new 
honour were conferred upon his wife. 

The capture of Vaux fort saw the beginning of a furious German 
assault upon the whole section from Thiaumont eastwards. The 
direct objective was Fort Souville, which had now become the main 
outwork of Verdun. The French front on 7th June ran from Hill 
321, below the C6te du Poivre and the C6te de Froide Terre, through 
the fortin of Thiaumont, along the slopes defined by the woods of 
Chapitre, Fumin, and Laufee, and then south along the fringes of 
the hills east of Eix. Between the C6te de Froide Terre and the 
plateau where stood the forts of Souville and Tavannes was a deep- 
cut hollow, down which ran the road from Vaux to Verdun. The 
village of Fleury lay on the western lip of this ravine. The easiest and 
most open approach to Souville was by way of Fleury and the west- 
ern ridge, for on the east the woods gave strong defensive positions. 

For four days there was a lull. Petain, who knew what was 
coming, warned Joffre of the gravity of the case and begged him 
to expedite the great attack on the Somme ; but the Commander- 
in-Chief replied that at all costs Verdun must be defended. Then 
on the night of Sunday, the nth, after a bombardment, the enemy 
managed to gain a little ground in the Fumin Wood. Next day 
the assault was on the other flank, delivered by a division and a 
half of Bavarian and Pomeranian troops. A bit of the French line 
on Hill 321 west of Thiaumont was captured, and the enemy was 
within 3f miles of Verdun. All through the week Thiaumont and 
the adjacent slopes of Hills 321, 316, and 320 were the theatre of 
heavy fighting. The great effort came on Friday, 23rd June. At 
eight o'clock in the morning nineteen regiments, drawn from seven 
different divisions, were flung against a front of three miles. The 
French right stood firm, but the left was driven back between Hill 
320 and Hill 321, and Thiaumont fort fell. Meantime the German 
centre, coming down the ravine from the Wood of Caillettes, 
attacked Fleury village, and got into its outskirts ; but a French 
counter-attack, admirably timed, drove back the invaders. The 
position in the evening was that the German centre stood out in 
a wedge towards Fleury, some eight hundred yards in advance of 
their general front. 



THE BATTLE OF VERDUN- 
SECOND STAGE. 







g •* y 






htvei 






I9i61 THE BATTLE EBBS. 99 

That evening Nivelle issued an order to his army : " The hour 
is decisive. The Germans, hunted down on all sides, are launching 
wild and furious attacks on our front, in the hope of reaching the 
gates of Verdun before they themselves are assailed by the united 
forces of the Allies. You will not let them pass, my comrades. 
The country demands this further supreme effort. The army of 
Verdun will not allow itself to be intimidated by shelling, or by 
the German infantry whom for four months it has beaten back. 
The army of Verdun will keep its fame untarnished." His con- 
fidence was not misplaced ; but the last week of June saw a mad 
crescendo in the German assault. The situation was so grave that 
Petain, while ordering resistance at all costs, had made every prep- 
aration for evacuating the right bank of the Meuse. On 24th June 
the enemy again got into Fleury, and the two sides faced each other 
in its streets. Meantime the advance from Hills 320 and 321 on 
the Froide Terre ridge was firmly held, and the French made some 
small progress towards Thiaumont. On the last day of the month, 
about ten in the morning, with a brilliant effort they pushed through 
the German barrage, regained Thiaumont fort, and held it against 
all counter-attacks. 

The rest of the story may be briefly told. During July and 
August the Verdun volcano had moments of eruption, but the 
storm-centre had moved elsewhere. The Germans at the beginning 
of July were still in Fleury, and on the nth of the month their 
centre delivered an attack on a 3,000 yards front from Fleury to 
the Chapitre Wood with the effectives of six regiments, and gained 
a little ground at the Chapelle St. Fine, 1,000 yards north-west of 
Souville. On Tuesday, 3rd August, it was the turn of the French 
to counter-attack. On the 5th they regained Fleury village, 
pushed their left well along Hill 320 to the south-east of Thiaumont, 
and increased the number of prisoners captured since 1st August 
to 1,750. This meant that the German central wedge was now 
flattened in. During August the fighting swayed backwards and 
forwards, and on 8th August the Germans were back in small 
parts of Thiaumont, and a day or two later again entered Fleury. 
From the latter place they were promptly ejected, and from 
Thiaumont they were ousted a few days later. The initiative was 
now wholly in the hands of Nivelle. Whatever the enemy won 
he won at great cost, and he held his gains only so long as the 
French cared to permit him. 

The recapture of Thiaumont work on the last day of June, 



ioo A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

the 130th day of the struggle, may be taken as the logical end of 
the Battle of Verdun. The fighting which followed was the back- 
wash of the great action, the last desperate efforts of a baffled 
enemy who had lost all strategic purpose, and the first forward 
movement of the triumphant defence. The battle had served its 
purpose. It had grievously depleted the manhood of France, and 
the thirty-nine divisions which Foch had destined for the Somme 
had shrunk to sixteen. But it had compelled Germany, between 21st 
February and 21st August, to use up fifty divisions. It had sucked 
in and destroyed the bulk of her free strategic reserves. It had 
tided over the months of waiting while France's allies were 
completing their preparations. The scene was about to change 
from the shattered Verdun uplands to the green hills of Picardy, 
and the main battle was on the eve of transference from the Meuse 
to the Somme. Even as the weary and dusty fantassins scrambled 
over the debris of Thiaumont, a hundred miles to the north-west 
on a broad front the infantry of France and Britain were waiting 
to cross their parapets. 

The citadel by the Meuse had been for Germany a will-o'-the- 
wisp to lead her to folly and death. But as the weeks passed it 
became for France also a watchword, an oriflamme to which all 
eyes could turn, a mystic symbol of her resolution. It was a sacred 
place, and its wardenship was the test of her devotion. Mankind 
must have its shrines, and that thing for which much blood has been 
spilled becomes holy in its eyes. Over Verdun, as over Ypres, 
there will brood in history a strange aura, the effluence of the su- 
preme sacrifice, the splendid resolution, the unyielding fortitude 
of the tens of thousands who died before her gates. Her little hills 
are consecrated for ever by the immortal dead. 

" Heureux ceux qui sont morts sur un dernier haut lieu 
Parmi tout l'appareil des grandes funerailles ; 
Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour les cites charnelles, 
Car elles sont le corps de la cite de Dieu." * 

• Charles Peguy. 



CHAPTER LIX. 

THE SECOND YEAR OF WAR! A RETROSPECT. 
June 28, K)i$-June 28, 1916. 

Contrast of Situation at Midsummer 1915 and 1916— The Test of Military Success 
—Political Movements in Germany— Murder of Captain Fryatt— Economio 
Policy and Position of the Allies— The Neutrals— Summary of Year. 

As the narrative approaches the end of the second year of war, 
and reaches the second anniversary of those murders at Serajevo 
which opened the floodgates, it is desirable to halt again and 
review the position. Only in this way can a campaign whose 
terrain was three continents and every sea, and whose battle- 
fronts were reckoned in thousands of miles, be seen in its full 
purpose and its right perspective. 

At the end of June 1915 Germany's arms to a superficial observer 
seemed to be everywhere crowned with success. It was true that 
her original scheme had failed, and that she had been compelled to 
revise her views, and adopt a plan for which she had small liking. 
But with admirable patience she had performed the revision, and 
the new policy had won conspicuous triumphs. She held the 
Allies tightly in the West, held them with the minimum of men 
by virtue of an artillery machine to which they could not show 
an equal, and fortifications of a strength hitherto unknown to 
the world. Using her main forces in the East, she had driven 
Russia from post to pillar, had won back Galicia, had penetrated 
far into Poland, and had already in her grip the great fortresses, the 
loss of which meant for Russia not only a crushing loss in guns 
but an indefinite further retreat. She held vast tracts of enemy 
soil in Belgium and France, and so far these gains had not dimin- 
ished. The Central Powers had a unified command, and all their 
strength could be applied with little delay and friction to the 
purpose of the German General Staff. Nor was the full tale of 

the Allied misfortunes yet told. Bulgaria, though the fact was 

101 



102 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

still secret, was about to enter the Teutonic League, and that 
must presently mean the annihilation of Serbia, and German 
dominion in the Balkans. Turkey had so far held the Allied 
advance in Gallipoli, and was soon to bring it to a melancholy 
standstill. There were tragedies waiting to be enacted in Meso- 
potamia. What had the Allies to show as against such spectacular 
triumphs ? The conquest of one or two outlandish German colonies, 
a few miles gained on the Isonzo and in the Alps, the occupation 
of the butt-end of a Turkish peninsula, an advance up the Tigris, 
where the difficulties loomed greater with every league, a defensive 
action in Egypt, and one or two costly failures on the Western 
front. To the German observer it seemed a mirage as contrasted 
with the solid earth. 

The prospect was not more pleasing when viewed with another 
eye than the strategist's. In the struggle of military bureaucracies 
against democracies, it would seem that the bureaucracies must 
win. Fifty years before Abraham Lincoln had said, " It has long 
been a grave question whether any government, not too strong 
for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its 
existence in great emergencies." That question seemed to have 
been answered against the democracies. Germany and her allies 
looked abroad, and saw Britain still perplexed with old catchwords, 
still disinclined to turn a single mind to the realities of war. The 
air was full of captious criticism. Her people had willed the end, 
no doubt, but they were not wholly inclined to will the means. 
Again, while the Teutonic command was single and concentrated, 
the Allies were still fumbling and wasting their strength on diver- 
gent enterprises. There seemed to be no true General Staff work 
done for the Alliance as a whole. Each unit fought its own cam- 
paign, and was assisted by its colleagues only when disaster had 
overtaken it. Their assets, potentially very great, could not be 
made actual. They had more men, but those men could not 
be made soldiers in time. They had a great industrial machine, 
but that machine would not adapt itself quickly enough to military 
needs. They commanded the sea, but their fleets could not destroy 
Germany's unless Germany was willing to fight. Their blockade, 
while it might annoy, could not seriously cripple the energies of 
Central Europe, which in the greater matters was economically 
self-sufficing. As for moral, had not a bureaucracy shown that it 
could elicit as steely a resolution and as whole-hearted an enthu- 
siasm as those Powers which worshipped the fetish called popular 
liberty ? 



IQI6] THE CHANGED SITUATION. 103 

Nevertheless an impartial critic, looking around him in June 
1915, might have noted chinks in the Teutonic panoply. So far 
the Allied blockade had had no very serious effects ; but might 
it not be tightened ? Germany had occupied much land ; but 
could she hold it ? She was spending herself lavishly and bran- 
dishing her sword far afield in the hope of intimidating her enemies ; 
but what if those enemies declined to be intimidated ? Unless 
Germany achieved her end quickly, it was possible that the Allies 
might set their house in order. They were fighting for their 
national existence, and they saw no salvation save in a complete 
and unquestionable victory. Was it not possible that, as the 
urgency of the need sank into their souls, there might come such 
a speeding up and tightening of energies that Germany's offensive 
would be changed to a defensive ? For the one hope of Germany 
lay in a successful offensive which would break up the Alliance 
by putting one or other of its constituent armies out of action. 
If this was not done speedily, could it be done at all ? 

Let us suppose that a man, wounded at the close of June 1915, 
had been shut off from the world for the space of a year. As he 
became convalescent he asked for news of the war. Was the 
Russian army still in being ? and if so, in what ultimate waste, 
far east of Petrograd and Moscow, did it lie ? for in the absence 
of Russian equipment the German advance could not have been 
stayed short of those famous cities ? To his amazement he was 
told that Hindenburg's thrust had first weakened, and then died 
away, and that the winter in the East had been stagnant. More, 
Russia had had her breathing space, and was now advancing. 
All the Bukovina had been recovered, and the Volhynian Triangle, 
and Brussilov was well on the road to Lemberg, with three-quarters 
of a million Austrians out of action. In the Balkans, Serbia and 
Montenegro had been overrun, and Bulgaria had joined the Central 
Powers ; but an Allied army — French, British, Serbians, Russians, 
and Italians — was holding the Salonika front, and waiting for the 
signal to advance. The Gallipoli adventure had failed/ but the 
force had been extricated, and was now in France and Egypt and 
Mesopotamia. Egypt had laughed at the threat of invasion, and 
had easily subdued the minor ferments on her borders. On the 
Tigris one British fort had fallen, and a weak division had been 
made prisoner ; but it had detained large Turkish forces, and 
allowed the Grand Duke Nicholas in Transcaucasia to take Erzerum, 
Trebizond, and Erzhingian, and to threaten the central Anatolian 
plain. Italy had flung back the invader from the Trentino, and 



104 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

was now beginning her revanche. In the West there had been one 
great effort to pierce the German front, and after its failure the 
Allies had sat down to perfect their equipment and increase their 
armies. The convalescent heard with amazement of the tornado 
that had swept on Verdun, and of the stand of the thin French 
lines. He was told of the desperate assault then being delivered 
against Fleury and Thiaumont, but he was told also of the great 
Allied armies mustered on the Somme for the counter-stroke. 
Above all, he heard of the miraculous work of Britain, of ample 
munitions, of seventy divisions in the field, and great reserves behind 
them. He heard, too, of a growing unity in strategical and eco- 
nomic purpose among the Allies, of attacks conceived and directed 
with a single aim. As the manifold of these facts slowly shaped 
itself in his consciousness, he realized that he had awakened to 
a different world. The Allies had passed from the defensive to 
the offensive. 

What is the test of military success ? The question has often 
been asked, and the popular replies are innumerable ; but the 
soldier knows only one answer. The test is the destruction of 
the enemy's power of resistance, and that power depends upon 
his possession of an adequate field army. Success is not the occu- 
pation of territory, or of successive enemy lines, or of famous 
enemy fortresses. These things may be means, but they are not 
in themselves the end. And if these things are won without the 
end being neared, the winner of them has not only not advanced, 
he has gone backward, since he has expended great forces for an 
idle purpose, and is thereby crippled for future efforts. Early in 
1916, when the German press was exulting in the study of the 
map of Europe, Hindenburg was said to have described Germany's 
military position as " brilliant, but without a future." If the 
veteran field-marshal was correctly reported, he showed in the 
remark an acumen which observers would not necessarily have 
deduced from his exploits in the field. 

Strategically, in the strict sense of that word, Germany had 
long ago failed. Her original purpose was sound — to destroy one 
by one the Allied field armies. Her urgent need was a speedy and 
final victory. The Marne and First Ypres deprived her of this 
hope, and she never regained it. The Allies took the strategical 
offensive, and, by pinning her to her lines and drawing round her 
the net of their blockade, compelled her to a defensive war. In 
the largest sense the Allied offensive dated from the beginning of 
1915. But it was an offensive which did not include the tactical 



i 9 i6] GERMAN MISCALCULATIONS. 105 

initiative. So long as the Allies were deficient in equipment 
Germany was able to take the tactical offensive. Instances were 
the Second Battle of Ypres and the great German advance in 
the East — movements which were undertaken largely in the 
hope that tactical success might gradually restore the strategic 
balance. This hope was doomed to disappointment. Victories, 
indeed, were won, brilliant victories, but they led nowhere. By- 
and-by came the last attempts, the onslaughts on Verdun and 
the Trentino ; and the failure of these prepared the way for the 
Allies themselves to take the tactical initiative. Germany was 
tactically as well as strategically on her defence. Now the essence 
of German tactics was their reliance upon guns. For them artillery 
was the primary and infantry the secondary arm. They looked 
to win battles at long range, confident in an elaborate machine 
to which their opponents could provide no equivalent. The calcu- 
lation miscarried ; but at the beginning of the war there was some 
ground for their confidence. To improvise an equivalent machine 
might reasonably have been considered beyond the power of France 
and Russia. But three things combined to frustrate the hope — 
the stubborn fight against odds of all the Allies, their command 
of the sea which allowed them to import munitions till their own 
producing power had developed, and the industrial capacity of 
Britain which enabled her to manufacture for the whole Alliance. 
Faced with an artillery equipment of equal strength, the German 
tactics were ineffective ; and when the day came that the Allies 
had a stronger munitionment than their enemy, they were both 
futile and perilous. The Battle of Verdun may be taken as the 
final proof of their breakdown. They were intrinsically wrong ; 
they could only have succeeded if the whirlwind fury of the first 
German assault had immediately achieved its object ; and, so soon 
as Germany was reduced to a strategical defensive, they became 
a signal danger. 

The miscalculation of Germany at this stage did not lie only 
with the General Staff, but with all the German authorities, 
civil, naval, and military, and with the German people. Since 
she was clearly on the defence, it would have been well to take 
the measures proper to a defensive campaign. She was holding 
far-flung lines with too few men, and the path of wisdom was 
obviously to shorten them. But in the then state of German 
opinion it was impracticable. When the people had been buoyed up 
with hope of a triumphant peace and a vast increase of territory, 
when the fanatics of Pan-Germanism were publishing details of 



106 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

how they intended to use the conquered areas, when the Imperial 
Chancellor was lyrically apostrophizing the map, a shortening of 
the lines in East and West would have tumbled down the whole 
edifice of German confidence. She could not do it ; her political 
commitments were too deep ; her earlier vainglory sat like an 
Old Man of the Sea on her shoulders. Yet beyond doubt it was 
her best chance. Had she, before the Allied offensive began, 
drawn in her front to the Vistula and the Meuse, she would have 
had an immensely strong line, and adequate numbers wherewith 
to hold it. She would have offered the Allies the prospect of an 
interminable war, under conditions which they had fondly hoped 
they had made impossible. Her one chance was to weaken the 
Alliance internally, to weary this or that Power, to lengthen out 
the contest to a point where the cost in money and lives would 
induce a general nervelessness and satiety. Moreover, by shorten- 
ing her lines her food problem would have become far less urgent, 
and the deadliness of the blockade would have been lessened. But 
she let the moment for the heroic course slip by, and when the 
first guns opened in the combined Allied advance that course had 
become for ever impossible. 

The position at sea in midsummer 1916 had not in substance 
changed from that of the preceding year. The waterways of the 
world were still denied by the Allies to the enemy, and used by 
them for their own military purposes. There had been several 
bursts of submarine violence, already chronicled in these pages, 
but it is fair to say that the submarine as a serious weapon had 
during the year decreased in importance. Its brutality was en- 
hanced, but its efficiency had declined. Its moral effect in the way 
of shaking the nerves of British merchant seamen was nil. The 
result of the year's experience had been to induce a high degree of 
popular confidence in the measures taken to meet the under-water 
danger — a confidence not wholly justified, and, as we shall see, 
soon to be rudely shaken. One great incident had broken the 
monotony of the maritime vigil. The German High Sea Fleet 
had been brought to action, and in the battle of 31st May off the 
Jutland coast had been driven back to harbour. But that great 
sea-fight did not change the situation ; it only confirmed it. " Be- 
fore Jutland, as after it," in Mr. Balfour's words, " the German 
fleet was imprisoned ; the battle was an attempt to break the bars 
and burst the confining gates ; it failed, and with its failure the 
High Sea Fleet sank again into impotence." 

The British navy, viewing the position while they swept the 



rgi6] GERMAN HOME POLITICS. 107 

North Sea and the bells rang in Berlin and Hamburg to celebrate 
Scheer's return, were convinced that they would see the enemy 
again. They had reason for a view which facts were nevertheless 
to refute. The Battle of Jutland was fought because politics 
demanded that the German fleet should do something to justify 
its existence in the eyes of the German people. That demand 
must be repeated. As the skies darkened over Germany it seemed 
certain that Scheer would make further efforts, and the nearer 
came the day of final defeat the more desperate those efforts would 
be. For the navy of a Power is like a politician who changes 
sides : it counts two on a division. If the Power is conquered, 
its fleet will be the spoil of the conqueror. Far better that the 
German battleships should go to the bottom, with a number of 
British ships to keep them company, than that they should be 
doled out ignobly to increase the strength of the Allied victors. 

While Germany's military and naval situation had a certain 
clearness, it was far otherwise with her domestic affairs. If differ- 
ences of opinion were rumoured within her General Staff, there 
were open and flagrant antagonisms among her civilian statesmen. 
Two main streams of opinion had long been apparent. One was 
that held by the Emperor, by the Imperial Chancellor, and by 
the bulk of the civilian ministers. They believed — with occasional 
lapses into optimism — that the contest must end in a stalemate, 
and they were willing to abate their first arrogance and play for 
safety. Above all, they were anxious to avoid any conflict with 
the more powerful neutrals, for they knew that only by neutral 
help could Germany set her shattered house in order. They still 
talked boldly about victory, but these utterances were partly a 
concession to popular taste, and partly a desire to put their case 
high in order to enhance the value of future concessions. These 
people were the politiques, and they were not agreed on the details 
of their policy, some looking towards a rapprochement with France 
or Britain, others seeing in Russia a prospective ally. But they 
differed from their opponents in being willing to bargain and con- 
cede, and in allowing prudential considerations to temper the old 
German pride. 

Arrayed against them were the fanatics of Pan-Germanism of 
the Reventlow-Tirpitz school, who still clung to the belief in a 
complete victory, and were prepared to defy the whole round earth. 
To this school Prince Biilow had by a curious metamorphosis 
become attached. Neck or nothing was their maxim. They were 
advocates of every extreme of barbarism in method, and refused 



ro8 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Junb 

to contemplate any result of the war except one in which Germany 
should dictate to beaten foes. They had a considerable following, 
including the bulk of the naval and military staffs, and they 
used the name of Hindenburg as their rallying-cry, because he 
loomed big in the popular imagination as the strong, imperturbable 
soldier. 

We can trace the strife of these two schools through German 
speeches and writings till the late spring of 1916. And then some- 
thing happened which convinced both that their forecasts were 
wron g — which took from the politique* their hope of bargaining, 
and from the fanatics their certainty of triumph. Suddenly, with 
one of those queer illuminations which happen now and then to 
the most self-satisfied, the masters of Germany realized that their 
case was growing desperate. They saw that the Allied command 
was now in the way to be unified, and that the Allied efforts were 
about to be quadrupled. They saw that the Allies would accept 
no terms but unconditional surrender. And they saw, moreover, 
that the contest could not end with the war, for their enemies were 
preparing a conjoint economic policy which would ensure that their 
gains in battle should not be lost in peace. They saw at the same 
time that their military position was losing its brilliance, and had 
even less future than when Hindenburg coined his epigram. The 
alternative now was not between a complete victory and an hon- 
ourable draw, but between victory and annihilation — Weltmacht 
oder Niedergang. 

This sudden realization induced a new temper. The people 
had been deluded, but there must some day be a stern awakening. 
Let that awakening come from the enemy, was the decision of 
the German High Command. The nation must learn that their 
foes would not stop short of their utter destruction, the ruin not 
only of Germany's imperial dream, but of that laborious industrial 
and economic system which brought grist to the humblest mill. 
The boldest course was the safest. Concessions to humanity 
brought no reward, so let rigour rule unchecked. It was only on 
the grim resolution of the whole nation that they could count for 
the life-and-death struggle before them, and the nation must be 
brought to this desperate temper by the proof that their leaders 
possessed it. The following of the politiques shrank in number, 
and the voice of discretion was hushed. Germany proceeded 
accordingly to burn her boats. 

The first evidence of this calculated insanity was the murder 
of Captain Fryatt. Early in June 1916 the Great Eastern steamer 



igib] MURDER OF CAPTAIN FRYATT. 109 

Brussels, plying between Harwich and Holland, was captured in 
the North Sea by a German torpedo boat and taken to Zeebrugge. 
Captain Fryatt was imprisoned at Bruges, and brought to trial 
as z.franc-tireur, on the ground that in an encounter with a German 
submarine on March 28, 1915, he had defended himself by trying 
to ram his enemy, and had compelled her to dive. He was con- 
demned to death on Thursday, 27th July, and shot that evening. 
The German press, instructed for the purpose, broke into a chorus 
of approval. " The necessity," wrote the Cologne Gazette, " of 
protecting honourable and chivalrous combatants against perfidious 
and murderous attacks compels the military command to visit all 
illegal attacks with the strongest punishment. The captain who 
beneath a harmless mask flashes a dagger on an unsuspecting person 
is a bandit." The incident roused in the people of Britain a cold 
fury similar to that which followed the murder of Miss Cavell. 
The Prime Minister in the House of Commons gave renewed warn- 
ing that it would be the first business of the Allies, when the proper 
season arrived, to punish such crimes ; that the criminals would 
be brought to justice, whatever their station ; and that the man 
who authorized the system which permitted such deeds might well 
be held the most guilty of all. About the same time the German 
military authorities in north-eastern France organized a general 
shifting of sections of the population. In the neighbourhoods of 
Lille, Roubaix, and Tourcoing, women, young and old, were moved 
wholesale to other districts, where they were compelled to work at 
the dictation of their masters. The transference and the coercion 
which followed were attended with much revolting inhumanity. 

Germany in both cases put forth in defence of her conduct a 
number of contradictory pleas. Captain Fryatt had not been 
defending himself, she said ; he had been attacking. In any case 
resistance on the part of a civilian was a violation of the laws of 
war. The French deportations were justified on the ground of 
the force majeure of necessity. They were a deliberate breach of 
Germany's own undertakings at the Hague, but she argued that 
she must do the best for herself in a life-and-death struggle. The 
legal arguments on the first case need not delay us ; there were 
none on the second. It is an old rule of war among civilized 
peoples that a merchant vessel may lawfully defend herself against 
an enemy attempt at her capture or destruction. This rule became 
more reasonable than ever when German submarines were scouting 
the seas with instructions to torpedo British merchantmen at sight. 
It had been laid down by Lord Stowell and Chief Justice Marshall ; 



no A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

it had been embodied in the naval codes of most countries ; it had 
been approved by the chief German jurists ; it had even appeared 
in the German Naval Prize Regulations, which were in effect at 
the time when Captain Fryatt was alleged to have tried to ram 
the submarine. Germany, it is true, had shown herself restless 
under that doctrine before the war, and had made various attempts 
to have it set aside ; and since August 1914 she had simply disre- 
garded it, as she had disregarded all other bonds which checked her 
freedom. The captain of a trawler who tried to ram a submarine 
which was endeavouring to sink him, the householder who fired 
a rifle at a Zeppelin which was engaged in destroying his town- 
ship, the peasant who carried a pistol to protect his family from 
the last outrage, were all alike, under this curious creed, bandits 
and murderers. 

It is idle to discuss the question on legal grounds, for Germany 
had none which serious men could consider. But, if we neglect 
the sphere of legality, there would still seem to remain certain 
fetters to unbridled license imposed by elementary human decency. 
Even these Germany now spurned, as she had spurned them before 
in the horrors of her first invasion of France and Belgium. Had 
the affair not been so tragic, there would have been comedy in 
the unplumbed childishness of a Power which still worshipped the 
leaden idols, the creation of her own vanity, when the earth was 
cracking beneath her feet. If the German leaders desired to impress 
upon the nation the implacableness of their foes, then they assuredly 
succeeded. In France and Britain the desire to wage the war d 
outrance was blown to a white heat of resolution. It found expres- 
sion in the words of the Allied statesmen, and it was soon to find 
a more deadly expression in the deeds of the Allied armies. 

At the end of June the economic situation of the Central Powers 
was becoming serious. The immediate food stringency was the 
least part of it. That stringency was already great, and till the 
harvest could be reaped in August it would continue to increase. 
A Director of Food Supplies was appointed ; but no rationing and 
no ingenious manipulation of stocks could add to an aggregate 
which was too small for the comfort of the people. The British 
blockade had been greatly tightened, and every day saw its effect- 
iveness growing. In June the unfortunate Declaration of London 
had been totally and finally abandoned. However good the German 
harvest, it could not make up all the deficit, and its results would 
cease early in 1917 ; nor could it supply the animal fats, the lubri- 
cating oils, and the many foreign necessaries which the British 



1916] GERMAN'S COMMERCIAL OUTLOOK. in 

navy had forbidden. As for finance, further loans might be raised 
on the security of the Jutland " victory," though such loans were 
at the mercy of some sudden popular understanding of the true 
position. But the darkest part of the picture was the situation 
which must face Germany after war, assuming that a crushing 
victory was beyond her. Her great commercial expansion had 
been largely due to the system of favourable treaties which under 
Capri vi and Biilow she had negotiated with foreign countries. 
Even before the war it was clear that the signatory nations would 
seek to recover their freedom, and a tariff struggle was in prospect 
at the end of 1916 when the treaties were liable to denunciation. 
Now not only was there no hope of their renewal on good terms, 
but there was the likelihood that all the Allies after the war would 
unite in boycotting Germany and developing commercial relations 
between themselves. At a Conference held in Paris in the middle of 
June 1916 it was agreed that in the reconstruction period the enemy 
Powers should be denied " most-favoured-nation " treatment, that 
enemy subjects should be prevented from engaging in vital indus- 
tries in Allied countries, and that provision should be made for 
the conservation and exchange of the Allied natural resources. It 
was further resolved to render the Allied countries independent 
of the enemy countries in raw materials and essential manufactured 
articles. Unless Germany won the power to dictate treaties to her 
foes, as she had dictated to France in 1871, it looked as if the self- 
sufficiency of which she had boasted would be all that was left 
to her. 

How nervous was Germany's temper on this subject was shown 
by the popular joy which greeted the voyage of a German sub- 
marine to America, and its safe return. On 9th July the U boat 
Deutschland arrived at Baltimore from Bremen with 280 tons of 
cargo, mostly dye-stuffs, and an autograph letter from the Emperor. 
She had sailed under a commercial flag, and, being held by the 
American authorities to be technically a merchantman, was allowed 
to leave, and returned safely to Germany. It was a bold perform- 
ance, and no one grudged the crew and captain their meed of 
honour ; but the voyage involved no naval difficulty, its com- 
mercial results were infinitesimal, and the popular joy in Germany 
was based upon the erroneous idea that a means had been found 
of meeting the British blockade. She hoped that she had re-estab- 
lished trading relations with the chief neutral Power. It was a 
vain whimsy ; there was nothing which the British navy more 
desired than that a hundred Deutschlands would attempt to repeat 



ii2 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

the enterprise. A submarine or two in the vast expanse of the 
Atlantic might escape detection, but a submarine service would 
be gently and steadily drawn into their net. 

The one hope for Germany — and it was slender at the best — 
was that dissension would creep into the Allied councils. She 
could not look to draw any one of her foes to her side, but she 
might weaken their affection for each other, and so lessen their 
united striking power. She used her press and her connections 
in neutral countries to play the part of the sower of tares in the 
Allies' vineyard. France was praised for her gallant exploits, and 
was advised not to count on the alliance of perfidious Britain. 
It was hinted that the Channel ports would never be restored to 
her ; that Normandy had once been joined to England, and that 
history might repeat itself. What, it was asked, had become of 
the British during the long Verdun struggle ? The overgrown 
improvised armies of Britain were simply mobs, too untrained to 
influence the war. The legend of Britain's commercial ambitions 
was zealously preached. Russia was warned that after the war 
she would soon pray to be delivered from her friends. This game 
was destined to fail for two reasons. It was most blunderingly 
played, for German diplomacy was a clumsy thing, and her back- 
stairs efforts were betrayed by the tramping of her heavy feet. 
Again she underrated the depth and gravity of the Allied purpose, 
which was faced with far too desperate an issue to have time for 
pettishness and vanity. There was rivalry, indeed, between the 
Allies, but it was an emulation in gallantry and sacrifice. 

When we turn to the position of Germany's opponents, we find 
by midsummer 1916 that in every respect the year had shown a 
change for the better. Britain had enormously increased her 
levies, and had provided the machinery for utilizing her total 
man-power. France, though she had suffered a terrible drain at 
Verdun, had all her armies in being, and, with the assistance of 
Britain, who had taken over a large part of the front, would be 
able to supply the necessary drafts for a considerable time. Russia 
had trained huge numbers of her new recruits, and was stronger 
in men than before her great retreat began. In munitionment the 
change was amazing. France was amply provided for, Russia had 
at least four times greater a supply than she had ever known, 
and Britain, though still far from the high-water mark of her 
effort, had performed the miraculous. In a speech in the House 
of Commons, Mr. Montagu, who had succeeded Mr. Lloyd George 



igi6] THE BRITISH MUNITIONS OUTPUT. 113 

as Minister of Munitions, drew a contrast between the situation 
in June 1915 and June 1916. The report of the work of the depart- 
ment read like a fairy tale. In shells the output, which in 1914-15 
it took twelve months to produce, could now be supplied from home 
sources in the following times : field-gun ammunition, 3 weeks ; 
field-howitzer ammunition, 2 weeks ; medium shells, 11 days ; 
heavy shells, 4 days. Britain was now manufacturing and issuing 
to the Western front weekly as much as the whole pre-war stock 
of land-service ammunition in the country. In heavy guns the 
output in the year had increased sixfold, and would soon be doubled. 
The weekly production of machine guns had increased fourteen- 
fold, and of rifles threefold — wholly from home sources. In small- 
arm ammunition the output was three times as great, and large 
reserve stocks were being accumulated. The production of high 
explosives was 66 times what it had been in the beginning of 19 15, 
and the supply of bombs for trench warfare had been multiplied 
by 33- These figures were for British use alone, but we were also 
making colossal contributions to the common stock. One-third of 
the total British manufactures of shell steel went to France, and 
20 per cent, of our production of machine tools we sent to our 
Allies. Such a record was a triumph for the British workman, 
who in his long hours in dingy factories was doing as vital service 
to his country as his brothers in the trenches of France and Salonika, 
on the sands of Mesopotamia and Egypt, or on the restless waters 
of the North Sea. 

The economic heart of the Alliance was Britain, and on her 
financial stability depended its powers of endurance till victory. 
We have seen in earlier chapters how complex was her problem. 
All the Allies had to make vast purchases abroad, and these had 
to be supported by British credit. The foreign exporter had to 
be paid for his goods in the currency which he would accept, and 
Britain had to find large quantities of gold or marketable securities 
for her daily purchases. So far as internal finance was concerned, 
her position was sound. In a speech in the House of Commons 
on 10th August, the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculated that 
by March 31, 1917, if the war lasted so long, our total indebted- 
ness would almost equal the national income, " a burden by no 
means intolerable to contemplate," and that our national indebted- 
ness would be less than one-sixth of the total national wealth. 
But the question of foreign payments — something between one and 
two millions a day — remained an anxious one, and was yet far 
from a settlement. In some respects the situation had improved. 



114 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

Owing to the policy of restriction of imports, and owing also to a 
remarkable increase in British exports — n£ millions higher for 
July 1916 than for the same month in the previous year — our 
adverse trade balance was being reduced. In July 1916, for 
example, it was 22^ millions as against 31^ millions for July 1915. 
But ahead of our statesmen loomed the old difficulty : we were 
paying for American imports for ourselves and our Allies mainly 
out of " dollar securities " — those American bonds which British 
owners had lent or sold to the Treasury. At the present rate we 
should have exhausted this form of currency before midsummer 
1917, and we might then be faced with a real crisis. It was urged 
with great reason that it would be well to adopt at once some 
drastic method of reducing unnecessary imports, and so lessening 
foreign payments, if we did not wish to find our military effort 
crippled at the moment when it should have been gathering power 
for the coup de grace. 

Economy in this respect could only be effected by the Allies 
jointly, since British credit had to cover all purchases ; and it was 
now made possible by the unification which we have seen in progress 
in the Allied staff work. The pooling of resources was in theory 
complete. Frequent conferences, economic, political, and strategic, 
seemed to give assurance that every atom of strength would be 
directed to a single end. The whole Allied force now held one 
great battle-front — from Riga to the Bukovina ; then, after a 
gap, from the Gulf of Orfano to west of the Vardar ; then from 
the Isonzo to the Stelvio Pass ; and, lastly, from Belfort to the 
North Sea. The Russians were the right wing, the Salonika army 
the right centre, the Italians the centre, the French the left centre, 
and the British the left wing. The military Conference in Paris 
in May 1916 had for the first time prepared for the whole front 
one common strategic plan. The Central Powers, who had won 
what they had won by their superior unity, seemed to be now 
confronted with an Alliance no longer loose and divergent, but 
disciplined and directed. This sense of energy better guided in- 
duced in all the Allied peoples a new confidence and peace of mind. 
France, keyed to a high pitch by her marvellous deeds at Verdun, 
was in no mind to criticize her colleagues, and still less to find 
fault with her leaders. In Britain the mist of suspicion grew 
thinner between the Government and the people. Critics forsook 
their quest for a man of destiny, and were content to help fallible 
statesmen to make the best of things. In Russia the popular 
temper was fired by the great sweep of Brussilov and his armies. 



igi6] THE EUROPEAN NEUTRALS. 115 

though the first sun of success seemed to be about to wake into 
activity the host of parasites which preyed upon her, and which 
had been driven to hibernate during the chill winter of the long 
retreat. It was the dawn of the Allied offensive, which, if con- 
ducted with resolution, seemed to make victory mathematically 
certain during the coming year. But these calculations were based 
on the hypothesis that the world would remain substantially as it 
was in 1914, and that no new factor would enter into the problem. 
A freak of fortune might still give the enemy a fresh lease of life, 
and alter the whole character of the war. 

The position of neutrals had in certain respects changed materi- 
ally during the past year. Bulgaria had entered the war on the 
side of the Central Powers. The British blockade had revolu- 
tionized the oversea commerce of those Powers which still stood 
aloof from the contest. No neutral save Portugal had joined the 
Alliance ; but, so far as could be judged, no other neutral was 
likely to join the enemy. Rumania was still waiting with a single 
eye to her own territorial interests, but every mile that Brussilov 
advanced in the north increased the chances of her intervention 
on the Allied side. Greece had attempted to play the same game, 
but in each move had shown a singular folly. Bulgaria's invasion 
of her territory had roused a national feeling which the Court and 
Army chiefs, blinded by the spell of Germany, could neither under- 
stand nor in the long run control. M. Venizelos, the leader of 
Greek nationalism, bided his time, and watched, with shame and 
melancholy, as did all well-wishers of Hellas, the huckstering 
policy of the Athens Government. The Grceculus esuriens was 
not dead. Still, as of old, he tended to be too clever, and, from 
his absorption in petty cunning, to wreck the greater matters 
of his own self-interest. Spain remained aloof from the struggle, 
her hierarchy and the bulk of her upper classes leaning in sympathy 
towards Germany, and the mass of her people favouring the Allies. 
Holland and the Scandinavian states preserved a strict neutrality, 
and, as the German star grew dimmer, Sweden found less to admire 
in her trans-Baltic neighbour. On these states, who were in close 
proximity to Germany, the restrictions of the British blockade 
bore very hard. On the whole they faced the difficulties with 
good temper and good sense, and their collaboration in the " ration- 
ing " system was of inestimable advantage to the Allies. Switzer- 
land had, perhaps, the hardest fate of all. The war had greatly 
impoverished her, and the two widely different strains in her popu- 
lation kept her sympathies divided between the belligerents. To 



n6 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

her eternal honour she played a diligent and kindly part in facili- 
tating the exchange of prisoners on both sides, and in giving hospi- 
tality in her mountain health resorts to the badly wounded. The 
country which had originated the Red Cross service was faithful 
to her high tradition in the works of mercy. 

The attitude of the United States had not altered since we last 
reviewed it. Her triumph over Germany on the submarine ques- 
tion — real in principle but trivial in results — gave to Mr. Wilson's 
Government a stock of credit in foreign policy which carried them 
through the summer. America's interest was presently absorbed 
by her coming Presidential election, when Mr. Wilson was to be 
opposed from the Republican side by Mr. Hughes, assisted by 
Mr. Roosevelt and the Progressives. This meant that foreign 
affairs would be considered mainly from the electioneering stand- 
point. Neither side wished to alienate the German electors, both 
sides wished to appear as the champions of American interests, 
and at the same time Mr. Wilson, whose trump card was that he 
had kept America out of the war, was unwilling to embroil himself 
with either the Central Powers or the Allies. The British blockade 
had made some kind of " Black List " necessary, in order to 
penalize neutral firms that were found trading with the enemy. 
This step naturally roused great discontent in America ; much 
strong language was used, and the President was given drastic 
powers of retaliation. But, till the elections were over, relations 
with the United States had a certain unreality. Her statesmen 
were bound to speak and act with one eye on the facts and the 
other on the hustings. 

The year had not brought to light any new great figure in 
politics or war. " This is a war of small men," Herr Zimmermann 
had observed early in the struggle, and the phrase was true in the 
main of all the belligerents. Mackensen was probably the best 
fighting general in the highest command that Germany possessed, 
and in Falkenhayn and Ludendorff she had two conspicuously able 
staff officers. Hindenburg was coming to be generally recognized 
as one of those favourites of fortune who acquire popular repute 
beyond their deserts. He was a grim and impressive figure, and 
he could strike a hammer-blow, but in professional skill he ranked 
below more than one of his colleagues. On the Allied side one 
reputation had been greatly enhanced. Alexeiev, the Russian 
Chief of Staff, had shown in the retreat a military genius which 
it was hard to overpraise. No less remarkable was his judgment 



igi6] THE LEADERS. 117 

during the long winter stagnation, and his power to seize the 
psychological moment when the hour for the offensive struck. 
Of the other Russian generals, Yudenitch in Transcaucasia and 
Brussilov in Galicia had increased their fame. In the West a new 
fighting man had revealed himself in Petain, whose discretion was 
as great as his resolution and fiery energy. 

In civil statesmanship the French Premier, M. Briand, had 
shown qualities which made him an admirable leader of his nation 
in such a crisis. His assiduity and passion, his power of concilia- 
tion, his personal magnetism, and his great gift of speech enabled 
him to interpret France to the world and to herself. In Britain 
the death of Lord Kitchener had removed the supreme popular 
figure of the war — the man who played for the British Empire the 
part of Joffre among the French people. He was succeeded at 
the War Office by Mr. Lloyd George, the only British statesman 
who possessed anything like the same power of impressing the 
popular imagination. The year had brought one notable discovery. 
Lord Robert Cecil, the Minister of Blockade, had perhaps the most 
difficult department in the Government, and in it he revealed much 
of the patience and coolness, the soundness of judgment, and the 
capacity for the larger view which had characterized his father. 
He now ranked among the foremost of those ministers whose repu- 
tation was not measured by parliamentary dialectic or adroitness 
in party management, but by administrative efficiency and the 
essentials of statesmanship. 

But at this stage to look only at prominent figures was to 
misread the picture. It was a war of peoples, and the peoples 
were everywhere greater than their leaders. The battles were 
largely soldiers' battles, and the civilian effort depended mainly 
upon the individual work of ordinary folk whose names were 
unknown to the press. Everywhere in Britain, France, and 
Italy there was a vast amount of honest efficiency, and on this 
hung the fortunes of the Allies. Many of the ablest business and 
professional men were now enlisted in the service of the State. It 
was the work of the middle-class German in production and admin- 
istration, far more than that of Falkenhayn or Helfferich, that 
kept Germany going, and it was the labour of the same classes 
among the Allies that enabled them in time to excel the German 
machine. 



CHAPTER LX. 

AFFAIRS IN THE NEAR AND MIDDLE EAST 

April i%-Augnst 25, 1916. 

Capture of Erzhingian — Condition of Persia — Baratov joins Hands with British on 
the Tigris — Germany and Islam — Revolt of the Grand Sherif of Mecca — The 
Action at Romani — The Policy of Greece; — Surrender of Fort Rupel — Partial 
Allied Blockade — The Bulgarian Armies attack. 



During the summer of 1916 the Near and Middle East had lost 
the position which they had held for a little as the centre of interest 
in the world-war. While the tides of battle were flowing strongly 
in Poland and Galicia, in the Trentino and on the Somme, the 
Transcaucasian, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian theatres — nay, even 
the Balkan area— tended to be forgotten. But if they lacked the 
strategic importance which they held a year before, they were 
none the less the scene of much desperate and intricate fighting. 
For Turkey remained the incalculable and unknown quantity in 
the strife of the two alliances. Her position dominated alike the 
Balkan and South Russian battle-grounds, and in her direction 
Germany looked mainly for those rewards which she was deter- 
mined at all costs to extract from the struggle. 

Constantinople during the summer again changed its character. 
Its people seemed to have lost heart in their manifold sufferings, 
and whereas in the spring it would have been dangerous for German 
troops to parade in its streets, by July only German and Austrian 
soldiers were visible, since the Turkish infantry had gone east and 
west to the firing line. The Christian troops of the Ottoman 
Empire, whom the authorities distrusted, were busy fortifying the 
European side of the Bosphorus, and erecting defences at Angori 
and Konieh. The city was congested with thousands of starving 
refugees. Business was everywhere at a standstill, and the steps 
taken by the Turkish Government to regulate commerce were 

us 



1916] CAPTURE OF ERZHINGIAN. 119 

probably the most perverse and whimsical economic measures ever 
adopted by a modern state. Towards the end of July the strain 
was slightly eased by the arrival of the new harvest from central 
Anatolia, as well as by the receipt of food supplies from Rumania. 
But in the provinces things were no better. In Syria especially 
starvation stalked at large through the land. Germany filled the 
place with her engineers and surveyors, and strained every nerve 
to complete the gaps in the Bagdad line ; she made some slight 
efforts, in her own interest, to fight the cholera which was appear- 
ing among the Turkish troops ; but for the rest she plundered the 
country wholesale, and had no eye for anything but her military 
purpose. Her emissary, well fed and well doctored, made his 
camp everywhere from the Marmora to Jerusalem, and worked 
at his railways and reservoirs ; while the wretched country-folk, 
dully resentful of an invasion which they did not comprehend, 
were dying in thousands at his gates. 

The fall of Trebizond on the 18th of April left the way open 
for the advance of the Grand Duke Nicholas through the last 
ramparts of that mountain land which defended the cornlands 
of Sivas. The position of Yudenitch was precarious. His wings 
were thrown out well ahead of his centre. His right was beyond 
Trebizond ; his left, having occupied Mush and Bitlis, was moving 
on Diarbekr ; while his centre was still fighting its way through 
the narrow hill glens towards Baiburt and Erzhingian. At this 
moment the new strength of the Turks had not yet been tried on 
their opponents. Trebizond had fallen to the efforts of an isolated 
wing, and it was certain that the troops brought from Gallipoli 
and those released by the British failure at Kut would make a 
desperate effort to hold up the Russian advance along the central 
highroads which led to the Anatolian granary. 

By the end of May the Russian front was close on Baiburt, 
on the Trebizond road, and had occupied Mamakhatun, half-way 
between Erzerum and Erzhingian. On the last day of the month 
a strong Turkish offensive developed in the Baiburt region and on 
the Erzhingian road, with the result that in the latter area the 
Russians were forced to evacuate Mamakhatun after destroying 
the bridge. For a month there was a lull in the fighting, and then 
on 1 2th July Yudenitch's centre again advanced, and recaptured 
Mamakhatun, taking nearly two thousand prisoners. Three days 
later his right centre took the important town of Baiburt, and his 
left wing drove the enemy from his position south-west of Mush. 
Yudenitch pressed on, and by the morning of the 25th was within 



120 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

ten miles of Erzhingian itself. That evening the Russian cavalry 
occupied the fortress— the most important gain in this theatre 
since the fall of Trebizond. The ancient Armenian town was the 
headquarters of the 4th Turkish Corps, and had been the advanced 
base of the enemy in the campaign since the loss of Erzerum. It 
was on the edge of the hill country, and was therefore the last out- 
post of the Turkish defence in front of the central Anatolian valleys. 

The enemy replied with a vigorous diversion against the Russian 
left wing. It began in the early days of August, a fortnight after 
the fall of Erzhingian, at a time when Yudenitch's main forces 
were on his centre, and his left wing from Lake Van to Mush and 
Bitlis was lightly held. From his base at Diarbekr the enemy 
thrust northward against Mush and Bitlis, took the towns, and 
forced the Russians some thirty miles back to a point not quite 
fifty miles from Erzerum itself. The danger of the attack was 
that Erzhingian was a hundred miles distant, separated by wild 
mountains with few communications, and there was a risk that, 
before reserves could be brought up to the threatened flank, the 
enemy might win his way to the east of Erzerum, cut the Russian 
front in two, and drive the halves apart towards the Black Sea 
and Lake Van. At the same time the extreme Turkish right, 
comprising the 4th Division, supported by troops from Mush, 
struck east of Lake Van in the direction of Rayat. The Russian 
reply came on 18th August, being directed from south of Lake 
Urmiah against Rayat, and from west of Lake Van against Mush 
and Bitlis. It reached its head on the 25th, when, near Rayat, 
the 4th Turkish Division was utterly dispersed. Bitlis had already 
been taken, and that same evening Mush was recaptured. The 
danger to Erzerum had now gone, the Russian front was recon- 
stituted, and Yudenitch resumed his slow movement westward 
between the Black Sea and the Tigris watershed. 

Meantime in western Persia a curious campaign had been going 
on during the summer months. In December 1915 a Russian force 
under General Baratov had entered the country from the north, 
and had driven the mixed levies of Turks, gendarmerie, and Persian 
insurgents west through the passes which bordered Mesopotamia. 
During the early months of 1916 this force, scarcely more than an 
infantry division in strength, supported by cavalry, had a series 
of considerable successes. Hamadan was theirs in January, and 
when Turkish supports arrived from Bagdad and concentrated in 
the Kermanshah region, Baratov smote them heavily, and drove 
them back through the mountain passes. For three months the 



I 9 i6] BARATOV'S COSSACKS. 121 

bold enterprise prospered well. The Persian loyalists raised their 
heads, and the rebels lost adherents daily. Sir Percy Sykes arrived 
at Bundar Abbas in March, and proceeded to organize a military 
police for southern Persia, to rid the country of German and 
Turkish bands and the rebel gendarmerie. On 12th March Baratov 
occupied Karind, fifty miles west of Kermanshah, and some sixty- 
four miles from the Turkish frontier at Khanikin. By 6th May he 
was thirty miles nearer Khanikin. By 15th May he reached the 
frontier, and was less than 120 miles from Bagdad ; while 160 miles 
farther north another force, which may be regarded as an extension 
of Yudenitch's left wing, captured Rowanduz, some eighty miles 
east of Mosul. Unfortunately, this speed could not be maintained. 
Baratov's southern force had long and precarious communications 
behind it, and was out of touch with the main army of the Grand 
Duke Nicholas. Even at Kermanshah it was a full 250 miles from 
its base at Kasvin. Its bold sally towards the Tigris valley came 
too late to turn the tide at Kut, and it all but led to its own undoing. 
For early in June Turkey sent reinforcements to the Persian border, 
and Baratov was steadily driven back. His retreat was as gallant 
and skilful as his advance. He fell back from Khanikin, and then 
from Kermanshah, then across the passes, and finally from Hamadan 
itself. The fires of revolt once more flamed up throughout Persia, 
wavering tribesmen went over to the rebel side, and the position 
of the Shah and his ministers and the various British officers grew 
daily more difficult. Russia had flown, after her generous fashion, 
to the relief of her ally, and was paying the price of her devotion 
to the common cause. 

But before the dark days fell a bold adventure brought a breath 
of romance into the tale. A sotnia of Baratov's Cossacks succeeded 
in joining hands with the British on the Tigris. The incident had 
little military significance, but it was an exploit requiring supreme 
audacity and skill. On the night of 8th May the squadron, con- 
sisting of five officers and no troopers, left Mahidasht, twenty 
miles west by south of Kermanshah. They rode south through 
the wild Pusht-i-Kuh hills, crossing passes some of them 8,000 feet 
high, where the snow still lay deep. They started with three days' 
rations, and when these were finished depended on local supplies. 
So swift was their ride that they met with no opposition except 
stray shots at long range. The distance to be covered was 180 
miles, and they travelled at the rate of twenty-four miles a day, 
halting for two and a half days at the court of the Wali of Pusht-i- 
Kuh. After nightfall on 18th May they reached the British camp 



122 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

at Ali Gharbi, on the Tigris, and were warmly welcomed by our 
men. The tough horsemen, though their last stage had been 
thirty miles long, spent the evening with song and dance, and 
declined to go to bed till the small hours. 

The day after the arrival of the Cossacks Gorringe's force made 
an important advance. On 19th May the Turks evacuated their 
position at Beit Eissa, on the right bank of the river, a little in 
rear of the Sanna-i-yat line, on the left bank. Following up the 
enemy, Gorringe carried the Dujailah redoubt, the key of the Es 
Sinn position, which Aylmer had assailed in vain on 8th March. 
Next day the whole of the southern bank of the Tigris was cleared 
as far as the Shatt-el-Hai, and from the south we were facing Kut, 
though the other bank was still held by the Turks as far as Sanna-i- 
yat. The advance, had it been possible a month before, would 
have led to Townshend's relief, but now it had no fruitful conse- 
quences. Our troops were weary, and suffered much from a 
temperature which was never less than 100 degrees in the shade. 
Moreover, the floods were out, and would continue well into July. 
The summer campaign in Mesopotamia resolved itself into a dull 
and arduous watching of the enemy. But if military operations in 
the strict sense were thus suspended, a vast deal of work was done 
by Sir Percy Lake in preparing for the next cold-weather campaign. 
Two new railways were under construction, the shallows of the 
river were dredged, and at Basra wharves were completed where 
ocean-going steamers could unload. Embankments were built to 
protect the main camping-grounds at the advanced base against 
floods. Huts were erected on a large scale, and hospital accommo- 
dation was enormously increased. In January 1916 there had 
been only 4,700 beds, in May there were over 9,000, and in July 
nearly 16,000. In August Sir Percy Lake relinquished the chief 
command in Mesopotamia to Lieutenant-General F. S. Maude. 



II. 

The beaver-like activity of German engineers on the Bagdad 
and Syrian railways, and the accumulation of stores at various 
points from Alexandretta to Beersheba, presaged still another effort 
against Egypt and the Suez Canal. The Committee, and still more 
its German masters, had never lost the hope of striking at Britain 
in that vital part, and their ardour grew as the chances of success 
diminished. The stagnation in Mesopotamia and at Salonika in 
the early summer enabled certain reserves to be freed for the enter- 



i 9 i6] THE ARAB REVOLT. 123 

prise, and Germany supervised the preparation of material. For 
the crossing of the canal and for water transport reliance was no 
longer to be placed on floats of kerosene tins. Great tanks and 
pontoons were brought from Germany by the Bagdad railway, 
and carted over the gap in the line through the Amanus mountains. 
The British commander in Egypt was fully alive to this activity 
and its meaning, and waited with confidence on the issue. The 
period of waiting was beguiled by a brilliant exploit of our air- 
planes against the big Turkish aerodrome five miles south of El 
Arish. On 19th June eleven machines crossed the hundred miles 
of desert, and bombed the ten hangars. Two were set on fire and 
wholly destroyed, four others were hit repeatedly, and at least five 
enemy airplanes were put out of action. Besides the aerodrome, 
enemy camps and troops were attacked with bombs and machine- 
gun fire. Preparation was steadily going on for that advance 
beyond the desert which was the true defensive policy for Egypt. 

Meantime an event had occurred of profound significance for 
the future of the Moslem world. Arabia had never been truly 
conquered by the Turks. It had remained the stronghold of the 
aristocracy of the faith, and had at the best only tolerated the 
Turkish guardianship of the Holy Places, since Turkey was the 
chief Mahommedan state, and had still the prestige of the conquer- 
ing days of Islam. But many movements, inspired by a desire to 
return to the old ways, had risen like dust storms amid the sands 
of the desert. More than a century ago the Wahabis had driven 
the Turks from the Holy Places, from all Arabia, and even from 
Kerbela, the Mesopotamian city which holds the tomb of Hussein, 
and is the object of pilgrimage to pious Shiahs. In 1872 the Turks 
attempted the conquest of Yemen, but failed, and in those parts 
the writ of the Sultan never ran. Since 1907 the province of Asir, 
under Said Idrissi, had been in revolt. In 1913 the great Wahabi 
chieftain, Ibn Saud, drove the Turks out of El Hasa, the province 
of eastern Arabia which borders on the Persian Gulf. The Arab 
had never wholly bowed to the Osmanli, and once the Osmanli 
fell under the spell of the unbeliever it was certain that the con- 
servative theologians of the peninsula would assert themselves. 
They could not endure to see the shrines of their creed in the hands 
of men who daily by word and deed flouted the mysteries of 
Islam. 

On the outbreak of war the Aga Khan issued a message to 
Indian Moslems in which he pointed out that, since Turkey had 
shown herself to be no more than a tool in German hands, she 



124 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

had lost her position as trustee of Islam. " The Kaiser's Resi- 
dent will be the real ruler of Turkey, and will control the Holy 
Cities." The wiser brains in Constantinople had long before the 
war foreseen trouble with Arabia, and Abdul Hamid, who was no 
fool, had built the Hedjaz railway that he might be able to pour 
troops southward to meet the first threatenings of revolt. But 
the new masters were less alert. They contented themselves 
with vapourings about a jehad, while they continued to outrage 
every Islamic sanctity, and in Syria and Arabia grossly mal- 
treated the Arab population. As against such anarchy the grim 
chiefs of southern Arabia looked with friendly eyes towards the 
Allies. If there could be degrees of merit among unbelievers, the 
latter were clearly the better friends of the faithful. Both Britain 
and France ruled over millions of contented Moslems, and safe- 
guarded them in the practice of their religion. In November 1914 
the Government of India had announced that the Holy Places 
of Arabia, including the Holy Shrines of Mesopotamia and the 
port of Jeddah, would be immune from attack or molestation from 
the British naval and military forces so long as there was no inter- 
ference with pilgrims from India to the shrines in question ; and 
at Britain's request the Governments of France and Russia gave 
similar assurances. 

The Grand Sherif of Mecca was a powerful — perhaps the most 
powerful — prince of western and central Arabia. He was the real 
ruler of Mecca, and, along with his able sons the Emirs Feisul 
and Abdullah, exercised a unique authority due to his temporal 
possessions and his religious prestige as sprung from the blood of 
the Koreish. On 9th June, supported by the Arab tribes of the 
neighbourhood, he proclaimed Arab independence of Turkey, and 
took prompt steps to make good his challenge. He occupied 
Mecca and — with the help of the British navy — the port of Jeddah, 
as well as the town of Taif to the south-east ; captured the Turkish 
garrisons, taking in Jeddah alone 45 officers, 1,400 men, and six 
guns ; and laid siege to Medina. He cut and destroyed parts of 
the Hedjaz railway, to prevent reinforcements coming from the 
north. The revolt spread fast. The Emir Nuri Shalan, who had 
already refused to support Djemal, joined the Grand Sherif, and 
presently the Said Idrissi of Asir took up arms, and captured the 
Red Sea port of Kunfidah, 150 miles south of Mecca. The policy 
of the Arab leaders was to refrain from shedding Moslem blood, 
and to invest the Turkish garrisons till they surrendered. On 
27th July Yambo, the port of Medina, fell ; and in Medina itself 



igi6] THE GRAND SHERIF OF MECCA. 125 

the Turkish troops were closely besieged, while the fires of revolt 
spread northward among the Arabs all the way to Damascus. 

Constantinople could not sit still under a blow which threatened 
the little religious prestige that remained to her. Troops were 
hurried south, and part of the forces destined for the invasion of 
Egypt were diverted to the new theatre of war. The Grand Sherif 
had no easy task before him, for he had to fight a modern army with 
levies whose equipment and discipline belonged to another age. 
But his action had pricked the bubble of Pan-Islamism which 
Germany had sought to use for her own ends. In August he issued 
a striking Proclamation to the Moslem world to explain his action. 
He and the princes of his race, he said, had acknowledged the 
Turkish Government because they desired to strengthen the House 
of Islam and preserve the rule of the House of Osman. But the 
Committee of Union and Progress had ground down the true 
believer, had forgotten the precepts of the Koran, had insulted 
the Khalifate, and had despised the Corner-stone of the Faith. It 
was open to all men to see that the rulers of Turkey were Enver 
Pasha, Djemal Pasha, and Talaat Bey, who were doing whatsoever 
they pleased. In such a state of things he could not leave the life 
and religion of his own Arab people to be the plaything of the godless. 
" God has shown us the way to victory, and has cut off the hand 
of the oppressors, and cast out their garrison from our midst. We 
have attained independence from the rest of the Ottoman Empire, 
which is still groaning under the tyranny of the enemy. Our in- 
dependence is complete and absolute, and will not be affected by 
any foreign influence or aggression. Our aim is the preservation of 
Islam and the uplifting of its standard in the world. We fortify 
ourselves in our noble religion, which is our only guide. In the 
principles of the administration of justice we are ready to accept 
all things in harmony with the Faith, and all that leads to the 
Mountain of Islam, and particularly to uplift, so far as we have the 
strength, the mind and spirit of all classes of the people. This we 
have done according to the dictation of our creed, and we trust that 
our brethren in all parts of the world will each do the duty that 
is incumbent upon them, that the brotherhood of Islam may be 
confirmed." 

The Hedjaz revolt delayed but did not prevent the attack upon 
Egypt. This came in the first week of August, and was promptly 
scattered to the winds. Sir Archibald Murray had all his prepara- 
tions made, and, as was expected, the enemy advanced and fol- 
lowed the old northern route which had been taken before the Katia 



126 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug, 

engagement in April. He knew that we had thinned our forces 
in Egypt and had sent several divisions to the West, and he hoped 
to find the desert front weakly held. He was mistaken, for since 
April the Katia front had been strongly entrenched, admirable 
communications had been established, and we had advanced our 
flanking posts in every adjacent oasis. The Turkish force, which 
included many German officers, was under the command of the 
German general Kress von Kressenstein, and numbered some 
18,000 men. It was elaborately equipped with many light moun- 
tain batteries, and a great supply of water-tanks carried on camels. 
It hoped, apparently, by timing its attack for the hottest season 
of the Egyptian summer, to get the benefit of surprise. 

On the evening of Thursday, 3rd August, the British force — 
the 52nd Division of Territorials from the Scottish Lowlands, 
under Major-General the Hon. H. A. Lawrence — was drawn up on 
a line some seven miles long from Romani, twenty-three miles 
east of the Canal, to the Mediterranean. Its left flank was pro- 
tected by British monitors in the Bay of Tinah, and on the right lay 
General Chauvel's Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division. 
About midnight on the 3rd the Turks delivered their attack, and 
the fighting lasted through the whole of the 4th. The Lowland 
infantry stood firm, while the cavalry on the right slowly withdrew, 
entangling the enemy in a maze of sand-dunes. By the afternoon 
reinforcements had come up — the Warwickshire and Gloucester 
Yeomanry, and a brigade of Lancashire Territorials from the 42nd 
Division. About five o'clock our whole front advanced to the 
counter-attack, and before the dusk fell the enemy line was hope- 
lessly broken. The defeat was soon changed to a rout. From day- 
light on the 5th our cavalry were harassing the Turkish retreat, 
and sweeping up prisoners and guns. On a wide front, with mounted 
troops on their flanks, our infantry pressed on through weather 
that in the daytime was ioo° in the shade. By Monday, the 7th, 
the fleeing enemy was nineteen miles east of the battlefield. On 
the 9th he attempted a stand, but was driven on by our cavalry. 
Then, and not till then, we called a halt, and counted our spoils. 
We had taken some 4,000 prisoners, including 50 officers, and the 
wounded and dead we estimated at at least 5,000, so that half the 
total force of the invaders had been accounted for. The action 
was one of the most successful and conclusive in the campaign. 
The fighting quality of the Anzac troopers and the British Terri- 
torials was worthy of their great Gallipoli record, and there could 
be no higher praise. 



1916] THE POSITION OF GREECE. 127 

III. 

But it was in the Balkan peninsula, and especially in connection 
with Greece, that, outside the main battle-grounds, lay the chief pre- 
occupation of the Allies. In the modern world the state, like the 
individual, cannot live to itself alone. Nationalism in any robust 
sense implies internationalism, and a hermit people, pursuing with 
complete absorption a domestic purpose, is an anachronism des- 
tined to a speedy disappearance. With the greater and more 
solidly founded nations this interconnection of interests may lead 
to a richer civic life, since only in co-operation and international 
fraternity is to be found security for legitimate national develop- 
ment. But the smaller states may find in it their undoing. Un- 
able to rank as honourable rivals, they are apt to attach themselves 
as suitors to some nation or group of nations, and to play in inter- 
state policy the part rather of courtiers than of statesmen. The 
position is inevitable, and it leads to a certain pettiness of inter- 
national outlook. They do not hope to sway the councils of the 
world by wealth or armed strength, so they seek their advantage 
by adroitness and diplomacy. Absorbed in their local ambitions, 
they cannot take the wider view of the future of a continent, and, 
being compelled to play by petty methods, they become petty in 
their conception even of their own interests. The trees are always 
before their eyes, but the wood escapes their vision. 

Greece shared to the full in this drawback of all little peoples, 
and she had other disadvantages due to her past history and her racial 
character. That she was in a true sense a nation no man could 
doubt. Her long bondage to Constantinople, her heroic struggle 
for freedom, her laborious rectification of her borders, her victories 
in the Balkan Wars, had given her nationhood. But it was 
a nationhood somewhat narrow and unintelligent in its outlook 
on affairs beyond its frontiers. She had no very clear ambitions. 
Turkey was the secular enemy, Bulgaria an ancient rival. The 
Balkan Wars had given her territorial enlargement towards the 
north somewhat beyond her deserts, and in Europe her only un- 
realized aim concerned the boundaries of Epirus and the chameleon- 
like fortunes of Albania. She aspired to rule all the islands of the 
^Egean, and her wiser citizens, remembering ancient Hellas, looked 
forward to a great domination of the Anatolian coast which should 
revive the glories of classic Ionia. But nowhere was there any 
clearly defined objective, such as Bulgaria and Serbia possessed, 
and in default of a clear aim Greece was doomed to a policy of 



128 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May 

waiting, in the hope of snatching some casual advantage from the 
European conflagration. 

To an impartial observer it seemed that there were two estab- 
lished facts which must dominate the Greek outlook. One was 
Turkey, who was the eternal foe. At Turkey's expense alone could 
Greece enlarge her boundaries in the one direction where enlarge- 
ment was possible. The second was that Greece was a maritime 
nation, trading throughout the whole eastern Mediterranean, and 
her obvious alliance was, therefore, with the great Sea Powers. 
It would be suicidal if she ever joined a national group which 
included Turkey, and arrayed herself against the British navy. 
Moreover, the German dream of Eastern empire was in direct 
conflict not only with her legitimate aspirations, but with her 
continued national independence. These truths were perceived 
by the abler minds among Greek statesmen ; they were perceived 
most clearly by M. Venizelos ; but they were scarcely present to 
the nation at large, owing partly to an imperfect education in 
foreign politics, and partly to the fact that they were negative things, 
and had not the appeal of a direct territorial objective. 

Hence there was no widespread popular conviction to counter- 
act the fatal tendency to trim and hesitate which was the Greek 
tradition in foreign affairs, and had become a second nature to 
the common politician. The Court at Athens had strong German 
affinities ; the Greek army, like most other armies, was under the 
spell of Prussian methods ; and its Staff was avowedly dubious as to 
the Allies' chances of victory. Let it be said that the Allies had 
given Greece small reason for confidence in their military wisdom. 
The attack on Gallipoli had justified most of the Greek objections 
to their policy. Mesopotamia had not increased their reputation, 
and their efforts in the Balkans had failed to avert Serbia's destruc- 
tion. Not unnaturally, with the fate of Belgium, Serbia, and 
Montenegro before her eyes, Greece hesitated to league herself in 
the field with Powers who had so far proved themselves broken 
reeds for the little nations to lean on. 

In such circumstances the inclination — supported by the whole 
tradition of past policy — was to wait till the success of one side 
in the struggle was beyond question. The attitude was not heroic, 
but it is hard to condemn it as unreasonable. Moreover, it must 
be remembered that to a considerable section of the Greek people 
the larger ideals for which the Allies fought had small attraction. 
The country was an incomplete democracy. The Court had more 
sympathy with the Prussian doctrine than with the liberalism of 



1916] FORT RUPEL SURRENDERED. 129 

France and Britain. Russia in occupation of Constantinople was 
a bugbear even to many Greeks who otherwise would have been 
ranged on the Allied side. The Western Powers were apt to as- 
sume that their own views of the European situation must appeal 
overwhelmingly to any land that possessed some kind of popular 
government. They forgot the difference that local atmosphere 
may make in the colouring of facts. Germany was not slow to 
take advantage of the uncertain elements in the Greek polity. 
Her agents worked unceasingly to present the Allied case as the 
effort of Powers, militarily inferior, to cloak a self-seeking purpose 
with dishonest rhetoric. 

The charge against the Government of Greece was not that they 
followed a prudential course and waited, for the world is not en- 
titled to demand quixotry from any people. It was that, when 
Greece's own territorial rights were infringed, they still wavered, and 
that they blanketed popular opinion and violated the free constitu- 
tion of the country. An appeal to the people in the summer of 1915 
had restored Venizelos to power. Early in October his proposal to 
carry out Greece's obligations to Serbia under her treaty of alliance 
was vetoed by the King, and he was compelled to retire from office. 
Thereafter constitutional government disappeared from the pen- 
insula. Irregular elections were held, from which the Venizelists 
abstained, and for eight months the land was governed by a 
camarilla who had no popular sanction, and were clearly unrepre- 
sentative of the Hellenic people. Greek policy was, therefore, 
during this period the policy not of the nation, but of a bureaucracy 
who were legally usurpers. Worse still, the King and his advisers 
were prepared to sacrifice a portion of Greek soil if they were only 
left in peace. The Bulgarian occupation of Fort Rupel on May 26, 
1916, was not the result of superior armed forces, but of connivance 
on the part of the Athens Government. Timidity had in this case 
brought statesmen into naked treason. There was no parallel 
between such an occupation and the permission to Sarrail's army 
to hold the Salonika zone. The latter had the assent of the Greek 
people through their constitutional mouthpiece, and it was accorded 
to the Powers who had won and guaranteed Greece's freedom.* 
The former was a gift of territory to an avowed enemy, who had 

* Art. 5 of Protocol No. i of the Treaty of 1830 provided that " no troops be- 
longing to one of the contracting Powers shall be allowed to enter the territory of the 
new Greek state without the consent of the two other Courts who signed the treaty." 
This clause implied that the Protecting Powers were entitled to send troops to Greece 
provided they were in agreement with each other and had Greece's assent. 



T30 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

always claimed the land, and would not willingly depart from 
what she had once occupied. 

For this new aberration of Greek policy the King was mainly 
responsible. King Constantine had deserved well of his country, 
and had hitherto enjoyed considerable popular prestige. But he was 
too slight a character for the rough times in which his lot was cast. 
Well-meaning and amiable, he had a mind incapable of grasping 
a new and complex situation, but tenacious of the small dogmatic 
stock-in-trade with which the lesser type of monarch is provided. 
He hankered after the absolutist air of Prussia, salubrious to 
minor royalties, and he dreaded the vast and incalculable forces 
which he felt around him. He believed firmly — it was the sum 
of his convictions — that Germany would win. Fear was at the 
root of his attitude, fear of the unknown, fear of the known in the 
shape of Germany, fear of a false step which might cost him his 
throne, fear of everything and everybody. And like many another 
weak soul before him, he was as obstinate as he was timid. His 
policy became a kind of fanatical impassivity. 

The surrender of the forts roused in Greece a storm of popular 
protest. The Venizelist journals appeared with black borders, 
and among the Greeks in Salonika there were impassioned demon- 
strations. It was announced that the Athens Government had 
protested formally to Berlin and Sofia, but the Allied Powers were 
not misled by this device. They deemed it necessary to take 
strong precautionary measures, for their position at Salonika was 
impossible with a treacherous Government in their rear, and on 
their flank mobilized Greek forces who might any hour receive 
orders hostile to the Allied plan. On 8th June the British Foreign 
Office announced that from 7 a.m. on 6th June certain restrictive 
orders had been put in force regarding the export of coal to Greece 
and Greek shipping in British ports with the object of preventing 
supplies reaching the enemy. The result was virtually a pacific 
blockade,* similar to that which had been proclaimed during the 
Salonika dispute in the previous November. 

The Allies' action gave Athens food for reflection. Greece was 
at the mercy of the Powers which held the sea, and the British and 
French warships at the Pirseus were cogent arguments. On 9th 

* A pacific blockade is one of the forms of persuasion known to international 
law which do not imply an absolute warlike rupture. " They are supposed to be 
used," says Hall, " when an injury has been done . . . for which a State cannot 
get redress by purely amicable means, and which is scarcely of sufficient magnitude 
tc be the motive of immediate war." Greek ports had already been pacifically 
blockaded by the Great Powers in 1827, 1886, and 1897. 



I 9 i6] THE ALLIED ULTIMATUM. 131 

June M. Skouloudis announced in the Chamber a partial demobiliza- 
tion of the army. Twelve classes would be disbanded, and the rest 
given leave, the object being to prove to the Allies that the Greek 
Government were without aggressive designs. But there were 
elements in the bureaucracy which had no thought of concessions. 
On Monday, 12th June, the secret police organized a military fete 
in Athens, after which bands of hooligans paraded the streets and 
insulted the Allied Embassies with complete impunity. There- 
upon the Allied Governments presented their ultimatum. Greece 
in regard to them was not in the position of an ordinary neutral. 
France, Britain, and Russia were the Protecting Powers of the 
State, according to the Treaties of 1863 on which Hellenic liberties 
were founded, and had the right to insist as trustees that these 
liberties were not infringed, and that their ward was not plotting 
mischief. They were in the strictest sense the guarantors of the 
Hellenic commonweal ; and the King, though they had chosen to 
make the throne hereditary, was their agent, put there to " give 
effect to the wishes of the Greek nation." If he chose to neglect 
his task, it was the duty as well as the right of the trustee Powers 
to call him sharply to order. The Allied Note, after reciting the 
offences of the Greek Government, demanded an immediate and 
real demobilization of the Greek army ; the installation of a new 
ministry which should give guarantees for benevolent neutrality ; 
the dissolution of the Chamber, followed by new elections ; and 
the dismissal of certain police officials. 

On 21st June it was announced that the Premier, M. Skouloudis, 
would retire, and that his place would be filled by M. Zaimis, a 
friend of the Allies, who had succeeded M. Venizelos on October 4, 
1915. That day, on behalf of the King, the new Prime Minister 
accepted the Allied demands, and set about forming that " business 
Cabinet devoid of any political prejudice " for which the Note had 
stipulated. So far the situation seemed easier, but it was a false 
peace. Baron Schenk and the other German agents were as busy 
as ever, and among the disbanded soldiers the Royalists formed 
Reservists' Leagues, which were openly anti-popular and anti- 
Ally. The one hope lay in the promised appeal to the people, 
for it was certain that fresh elections after demobilization would 
restore M. Venizelos to power. But events were soon to happen 
which made an appeal to the electorate impossible. 

The military situation at Salonika during June and the first 
half of July showed little change from that of the early summer. 
The Bulgarian raid of May had given them the forts of Rupel and 



i 3 2 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June-Aug. 

Dragotin, the keys of the Struma valley. During May the Austro- 
German troops were for the most part withdrawn from the Salonika 
front, being urgently needed elsewhere. The centre army was, 
indeed, still known as the XI. German Army under General von 
Winckler, but it contained at the most one German division. The 
right wing was held by the Bulgarian I. Army under Gueshov, 
and the left wing by the Bulgarian II. Army under Todorov. 
These three parts of the enemy force corresponded to the three 
natural divisions of the front. The zone west of the Vardar, 
where lay the road to Monastir, was mainly mountainous ; that 
between the Vardar and the Struma, a plain criss-crossed by low 
hills till the Belashitza range was reached north of Lake Doiran ; 
the eastern zone was mountainous in the north, and guarded from 
the sea by coastal ranges. The Allied battle-front was held on 
the right by the main British contingent, under General Milne ; 
the centre by the French and the British left wing ; and the western 
zone, the hundred miles between the Vardar and Albania, by the 
Serbian army, which had now taken its position in the line. The 
dispositions were wise, for they gave Monastir as the objective to 
the men of the Crown Prince Alexander, who at the end of July 
assumed the command, and so brought them at once within view 
of the frontiers of their native land. On the extreme left an 
Italian force, based on Avlona, was preparing to strike through 
Albania as a covering detachment on the flank, and an Italian con- 
tingent was also present with the Serbians. The whole composite 
Allied army was still numerically smaller than the Bulgarian and 
German forces opposed to them, and the latter had every advan- 
tage of position. 

As we have seen in an earlier chapter, to advance from Salonika 
was no easy task. A certain gain of ground could be achieved at 
once, and as a matter of fact was achieved during the summer, 
when the Allied centre pushed north to a line a little south of 
Doiran station. The enemy had not drawn in close to the Salonika 
defences, but had kept his front on a wide semicircle commanding 
the entrance to the difficult part of the Vardar valley. The Vardar 
and Struma routes were alike almost impracticable as avenues to 
the heart of Bulgaria. Only on the west was there any reasonable 
objective, and Monastir could not be taken without hard and dif- 
ficult campaigning. Its importance lay not in its strategic so 
much as its political value. It lay in an isolated pocket among 
mountains, and gave no ready access to the central Serbian terrain. 
But its possession had been one of Bulgaria's chief objects in enter- 



1916] THE BULGARIAN ADVANCE. 133 

ing the war, and its loss would undoubtedly so exasperate the 
Bulgarian people that they might well prove refractory to Germany's 
orders. The true meaning, however, of the Allied activity was to 
be found in connection with the Rumanian situation. The Gov- 
ernment of Bucharest was now committed to the Allied cause ; 
and in order to protect Rumania's mobilization against Austria, 
it was necessary to make certain that Bulgaria did not strike first 
upon her flank. The object of the Allies was, therefore, to hold 
as large a Bulgarian force as possible on the line between Ostrovo 
and the Gulf of Orphani. Their principal purpose would be achieved 
if they detained the bulk of the Bulgarian army, even though their 
advance were inconsiderable. 

Sarrail, who was now in command of the whole Allied forces 
in the Balkans, was perplexed with contradictory orders. On 
15th July he was told to occupy the attention of the Bulgarians at 
once ; then he was bidden wait until three days after the signature 
of the agreement with Rumania. On the morning of 10th August 
the French heavy guns began a bombardment of the town of 
Doiran, thirty-five miles west-north-west of Salonika, close to the 
junction of the Greek, Bulgarian, and Serbian frontiers. Next 
day the French troops occupied Doiran station, on the Salonika- 
Seres railway, and a height south of the town. Doldjeli, south- 
west of Doiran, was presently carried. And then, on 15th August, 
the situation was completely changed, for the enemy himself took 
the offensive. The movement had no direct connection with the 
Rumanian crisis. It was sanctioned by Falkenhayn to enable 
the Bulgarian left wing to push forward to the same latitude as 
that of the right, and so shorten the line. The demobilization 
of the Greek army made the plan practicable. 

On 17th August the Bulgarians struck in three sectors, and their 
main effort was very properly on their flanks. They did not con- 
template a frontal attack on Salonika, but they believed that they 
could count on an easy advance in the two flanking wedges of 
Greek territory, defended nominally by Greek troops, the more 
especially as the occupation of Fort Rupel had given them the key 
of the lower Struma and Kavala. On the east Todorov flung patrols 
across the Mesta east of Kavala, and pushed south and west 
towards the left bank of the Struma. In the centre Winckler 
attacked the French and British at Doldjeli, but failed to advance. 
In the west Gueshov occupied Fiorina, a little town in Greek 
territory seventeen miles south of Monastir which was held by 
Serbian outposts, and advanced upon Banitza, west of the Ostrovo 



134 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug. 

lake. During the next few days the centre stood fast around 
Doiran; and the Serbians in the west, retiring slowly towards 
Ostrovo, held the enemy in check, and inflicted considerable losses. 
But east of the Struma Todorov moved swiftly towards Kavala, 
and on the 19th was within seven miles of the town. French and 
British detachments were east of the Struma as far as the railway 
south of Demir Hissar, but the Kavala area was held only by 
Greek troops, who were without instructions. Bulgaria saw her 
way to an easy triumph, much needed for domestic comfort, at 
the expense of her southern neighbour and with the connivance 
of that neighbour's king. 

Presently Todorov was on a line two miles east of the Struma, 
between Lakes Tahinos and Butkova, while the Allies held the 
main bridges. Banitza was now in Bulgarian hands, but the line 
west of Lake Ostrovo was stoutly maintained, and farther north 
in the Moglena mountains the Crown Prince Alexander made good 
progress towards the Cerna valley. Meanwhile, on the east, 
Todorov was advancing on Seres and was at the gates of Kavala. 
On 25th August the Bulgarians occupied the forts of the latter 
town, and were shelled by British warships. The occupation was 
a breach of a direct promise given to Greece by Germany at the 
opening of hostilities. 

These events complicated beyond hope the already sufficiently 
complex position in Greek politics. Eastern Macedonia was largely 
in Bulgaria's hands, and the question of the fate of the Greek 
troops there — more than two divisions — was fraught with extraor- 
dinary difficulty. The Greek people were beginning to stir. A 
fort or two might be overlooked, but now they had lost a province, 
and lost it without striking a blow. The Athens Government in 
their perplexity hastened to conciliate the Allies. Dousmanis, the 
Chief of Staff, was dismissed, and his place taken by General Moscho- 
poulos, the commander of the 3rd Corps at Salonika, and a friend of 
France and Britain. But the problem could not be solved by the 
sacrifice of a staff officer. The general election, on which alone a 
true settlement depended, could not take place when a large district 
was occupied by the enemy, and the position of the Greek troops 
in the occupied territory must lead to a split in the army itself. 
It looked as if the Greek situation was approaching the point when 
relief could only be won by some act of revolution. 

At this moment, when the whole Balkan front was astir, and the 
Greek Government were fixed on the horns of a dilemma. Rumania 
entered the war on the Allied side. 



CHAPTER LXI. 

RUMANIA ENTERS THE WAR. 

August 4, 1914-September 1, 1916. 

Early History of Rumania — Centres of Teutonic Influence — King Carol — Bra- 
tianu's Tactics — The Rumanian Army — The Cabinet decides for War — The 
King's Message — Germany's Calculations — Hindenburg and Ludendorff suc- 
ceed Falkenhayn. 

During two years of war Rumania, under great difficulties and 
amid manifold temptations, had steered a course of strict neutrality. 
To the resolution come to at the Crown Council of August 4, 1914, 
she had scrupulously adhered. The first Russian successes in 
Galicia had appeared to sway her towards the Allies ; but the Rus- 
sian retreat in the summer of 1915 corrected the balance. Italy's 
entrance into the war shook her ; and the alliance of Bulgaria with 
Germany and the Serbian debacle for a moment seemed about to 
force her to draw the sword, whether she willed it or not. War is 
a maelstrom into which the most resolute neutral may be drawn, 
and during the early summer of 1916 it became apparent to the 
world that both external and internal pressure would soon force 
the court of Bucharest to cast in its lot with one or other of the 
belligerent sides. Brussilov's resounding successes in the north 
brought the moment of decision very nigh. 

Rumania was only indirectly a Balkan state, and her situation, 
half Latin half Slav, as an outpost of the West at the gateway of 
the East, gave the little country at this crisis of the war a profound 
significance. The territory inhabited mainly by the Rumanian 
people, if constituted into a national state, would have formed 
a square block based upon the lower Danube, and embracing 
the actual Rumania, the Austrian district of Bukovina, the Hun- 
garian province of Transylvania, and the Russian province of 
Bessarabia. It was the ancient Dacia, conquered by Trajan, and 
lost to Rome early in the Barbarian invasions. But so strong had 
been the impress of that mighty Power that the tradition of Rome 

136 



136 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. 

continued ; the Rumanians had in their veins, along with a large 
Slav admixture, the blood of the old Roman colonists, and their 
speech was still in its essentials a Romance tongue. Rumania, 
as the world knew it, consisted of two provinces widely different in 
character, into which projected from the west the wedge of Tran- 
sylvania. The eastern, Moldavia, watered by the streams of the 
Pruth and Sereth, was a region of black steppe earth, highly fertile, 
which made it one of the granaries of Europe. The western, 
Wallachia, lay between the southern Carpathians and the Danube ; 
the northern part being a broad upland sloping from the hills, and 
the southern the alluvial plain of the river. Both provinces were 
rich in agricultural, pastoral, and mineral wealth. 

The mediaeval history of Wallachia and Moldavia was the tale 
of border states between the Turk, the Hungarian, and the Slav — 
a tangled tale of savage and incessant war. In 1241 the principate 
of Wallachia was founded by the first feudal army which crossed 
the Carpathians. Then came the Turkish conquest, and the land 
became part of the Turkish Empire ; but the province was ruled, 
after the Turkish fashion, with a measure of autonomy by local 
chiefs. Now and then patriots arose, such as Stephen the Great 
and Michael the Brave, who raised fleeting standards of independ- 
ence, and were on the verge of founding a Rumanian nation. In 
a country so situated it was inevitable that the system should be 
aristocratic. The government was in the hands of the great land- 
owners, the boyars, who were partly of native and partly of Phan- 
ariot — that is, Byzantine Greek — origin, and the peasants tilled 
the soil as serfs. These boyars elected the princes, who ruled the 
provinces as feudatories of Turkey, and held their office on a seven 
years' tenure. Till 1821 the hospodars, or princes, were mainly 
Phanariots, but after that date came a succession of native rulers 
and a new consciousness of nationality. 

The modern history of Rumania began with the war of 1828-9 
and the Treaty of Adrianople, when the provinces passed under the 
suzerainty of Russia, and the hospcdars, being now elected for life, 
began to change from the chiefs of a nationality to something of the 
status of kings. The country shared in the European democratic 
movement of 1848, when a revolution broke out under C. A. Rosetti 
and the two Bratianus — a revolution which was quickly suppressed, 
and led to the re-establishment of the power of the boyars. Dur- 
ing the Crimean War Russia occupied Rumania, but evacuated it 
after the successful resistance of the Turks on the Danube, and it 
was held by Austria under an agreement with France and Britain 



PRINCE CAROL. 137 

The Treaty of Paris in 1856 re-established the Turkish suzerainty, 
but granted a form of autonomy to the two provinces under elected 
princes chosen for life. A strong movement began for national 
union, and in 1859 Colonel Cuza was elected prince of both Moldavia 
and Wallachia— the first ruler of a united Rumania. Turkey 
accepted the situation, on condition that Prince Cuza had a separate 
ministry and administration for each province. In 1861 he estab- 
lished a common ministry and an assembly of representatives at 
Bucharest ; and in the following year the union of the principalities 
was sanctioned by the Sultan, and modern Rumania came into 
being. 

Prince Cuza was a vigorous ruler, who introduced democratic 
reforms by the methods of despotism, but. had little skill in handling 
the machinery of politics and party government. The people 
at large were on his side, but the ruling classes, who formed the 
Liberal and Conservative parties, would have none of him. The 
Conservatives objected to his new land law, which abolished serf- 
dom, and to his introduction of universal suffrage ; and the Lib- 
erals, whatever they thought of his measures, disapproved of the 
means by which he enforced them. The national finances fell 
into confusion, and a revolution, supported by the army, drove him 
to abdicate in 1866. The Rumanians, looking round for a suc- 
cessor, applied first to Count Philip of Flanders, the brother of 
Leopold, King of the Belgians. On his refusal, the principality 
was offered, mainly on the advice of Napoleon III., to a prince of 
the Catholic branch of the Hohenzollerns, Charles of Hohenzollern- 
Sigmaringen, whose sister was the wife of Philip of Flanders and 
the mother of King Albert of Belgium. Charles accepted, and 
was installed at Bucharest on May 22, 1866, recognized by Turkey, 
and adopted by a specially summoned Constitutional Assembly. 
The same Assembly drew up a constitution which, with a few 
emendations introduced later, was that of modern Rumania. 

Prince Carol — to adopt the Rumanian version of his name — 
proved a wise and efficient ruler. He introduced order into the 
finances, developed the railway system and the Danube ports, 
and started his country, hitherto very backward, on a new era 
of prosperity. Not unnaturally, he leaned heavily on Germany, 
and it was German capital and German advisers that he used in 
his reforms, while he took Bismarck as his mentor in external 
politics. Following the advice of that far-seeing statesman, he 
kept on good terms with Russia, since through Russia alone could 
come the realization of his dream of true independence. Meantime 



138 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. 

he set to work to give the country a modern army. The old prov- 
inces had never had more than a rude kind of militia, and Prince 
Carol found the existing forces badly armed and disciplined. Him- 
self an ex-officer of the Prussian Guard, he introduced the Prussian 
system of organization, increased the numbers, and drew upon 
Krupp for a new artillery. With an efficient army at his back he 
waited on his chance to use it. 

The chance came with the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. On 
24th April of that year he signed a military convention with Russia, 
granting, with the connivance of Austria, free passage to the Rus- 
sian army through Rumania, which thus became the advanced 
base for the invasion of Turkey. A month later, on 22nd May, 
he declared his independence of the Porte. After the first Russian 
failure at Plevna, he crossed the Danube with 30,000 men, and 
greatly distinguished himself on the northern front. In the grand 
assault on Plevna, on nth September, the Rumanians carried No. 
1 Grivitsa Redoubt, the only one of the Turkish works which was 
stormed and permanently held. For such service Rumania looked 
for an adequate reward, but the results were below her expectations 
and her deserts. The Congress of Berlin did, indeed, recognize 
her complete independence, but with territorial changes which 
deprived the gift of most of its charm. That part of Bessarabia 
which Russia had ceded to Moldavia under the Treaty of Paris 
was restored to the Russian Empire, though it had a large Rumanian 
population. As compensation, Rumania received the bulk of the 
Turkish province of the Dobrudja, whose treeless steppes and 
riverine swamps seemed a poor exchange for the rich Bessarabian 
plains. 

The result was an abiding grudge against Russia, her old ally 
in the field. In 188 1 Prince Carol was proclaimed king, and, in 
spite of the secular grievance of Transylvania, the country began 
to tend towards a rapprochement with Austria-Hungary. The 
common people were vehemently anti-Hungarian, and among the 
politicians the extreme Right was Russophil and the extreme Left 
Francophil ; but the bulk of the aristocracy and the middle classes 
were in favour of the policy of the King. In 1883 a meeting took 
place with Bismarck and the Austrian Count Kalnoky, and a secret 
agreement was concluded, under which the Rumanian army in 
certain contingencies was to be at Austria's disposal. Rumania 
had become a real, if publicly unacknowledged, member of the 
Triple Alliance. Under the aegis of the King, the Austro-German 
influence spread and ramified during the succeeding thirty years. 



RUMANIA'S GRIEVANCES. 139 

To understand Rumania's position on the outbreak of the European 
War, it is necessary to remember her territorial ambitions, her 
economic interests, and the state of her internal politics. These 
three elements conditioned the problem which faced her statesmen 
and the diplomatists of Europe from August 1914 to the beginning 
of August 1916. 

The difficulty of all the small countries of south-eastern Europe, 
as we have already seen, was that their territorial did not correspond 
to their racial boundaries. The Turkish wars had dislocated the 
natural frontiers of races, and each state saw numbers of her own 
" nationals " under an alien and frequently oppressive rule. The 
" unredeemed " areas of Rumania were Transylvania and Bes- 
sarabia, notably the former. Under the Dual Monarchy, in the 
Bukovina, in the Banat of Temesvar, and above all in Transylvania, 
lived some four millions of Rumanian blood. Transylvania had 
been handed over to Hungary by Francis Joseph in 1867, and though 
the Government of Budapest the following year bound themselves 
to respect the rights, language, and religion of their Rumanian 
subjects, Hungarian nationalism speedily made the pact a dead 
letter. The Rumanian schools were Magyarized, the language 
proscribed, and the elections gerrymandered. On a basis of popu- 
lation the Rumanians should have had sixty-nine representatives 
in the Hungarian Parliament ; they never had more than four- 
teen, and in 1910 were reduced to five. The Rumanians of Tran- 
sylvania, penalized and discontented, appealed naturally to their 
kinsfolk across the mountains, and the appeal did not fall on heed- 
less ears. A new state is sensitively conscious of its racial affilia- 
tions, and the case of the Rumanians in Transylvania and the 
Vlachs in Macedonia profoundly affected popular opinion. Kings 
and Cabinets may follow a course of enlightened opportunism and 
make alliances with ancient foes, but the common people think 
in simpler terms and have longer memories. Leagues were estab- 
lished in the Rumanian capital to watch over the interests of their 
" nationals " beyond the frontier, and though this popular feeling 
might remain long quiescent, there was always the chance that at 
a moment of crisis it might break into flame and destroy the work 
of a passionless diplomacy. 

Rumania had, therefore, causes of grievance against both Russia 
and Austria-Hungary. She had, too, a natural ambition to en- 
large her territories so as to make them correspond to racial dis- 
tribution. Finally, as the years passed, she began to realize the 
strategic value of her geographical position. As the far-reaching 



140 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. 

policy of the Central Powers slowly took shape it was obvious that 
Rumania, on the flank of the Drang nach Osten, acquired a peculiar 
significance. Her alliance would safeguard on the north that route 
to Constantinople which was the pilgrims' way of German dreams. 
If Russia, again, was ever to secure her desires and control the exits 
from the Euxine to the iEgean, Rumanian friendliness would be an 
invaluable aid. Finally, whatever course Balkan politics might 
take, whether in the direction of union or of continued rivalry, 
the land north of the Danube must play a vital part. At the same 
time, Rumania well understood that her strategic assets were also 
strategic disadvantages. In a quarrel with her powerful neighbours 
she offered too many avenues for assault. It behoved her, therefore, 
to go warily, and take no step without due thought, for only by 
circumspection could she hope to win her national ambitions and 
avoid — what was never outside the sphere of the possible — national 
dissolution. 

These considerations affected Rumanian action in the first 
great crisis that faced her after the war of 1877, the two Balkan 
Wars. She refused to join the Balkan League, having no par- 
ticular grievance against Turkey ; while on Macedonian questions 
she had never seen eye to eye with Greece and Bulgaria. She con- 
tented herself with warning the belligerents that she could not 
permit any one of them to become predominant in the Balkans, 
and mobilized her army to watch events. When Bulgaria's sudden 
attack on her former allies precipitated the Second Balkan War, 
Rumania was forced to act. The event had been foreseen, and a 
provisional arrangement had been made with Serbia and Greece. 
To the world at large it looked as if King Carol's conduct was 
based merely on the desire to fish in troubled waters, but in reality 
there were sound reasons of policy behind it. Bulgaria had upset 
all hopes of a Balkan equilibrium as a result of the First W T ar, and 
her success would give her a Balkan hegemony most dangerous to 
Rumanian interests. It was Russia who took the severest view 
of Bulgarian wrong-doing, and King Carol consulted and secured 
the assent of Petrograd before he intervened. He crossed the 
Danube at two points, occupied Silistria, threatened Sofia, and 
received as his reward a larger slice of the Dobrudja. This meant 
a rift in the thirty-years-old entente with Austria — a rift widened 
by Hungarian intransigence over Transylvania, which was now 
deeply concerning the Rumanian people. It meant, too, increas- 
ingly friendly relations with Russia, and there was talk of a mar- 
riage between the Crown Prince's eldest son and a daughter of the 



RACIAL MAP OF RUMANIA AND 
NEIGHBOURING STATES. 




GERMANY'S COMMERCIAL INFLUENCE. 141 

Tsar. But King Carol did not allow the estrangement from Austria 
to affect his friendship with Austria's senior partner. Telegrams 
were exchanged between him and the German Emperor in which 
the latter was thanked as the only begetter of peace. The situa- 
tion, therefore, on the eve of the Great War was that politically 
Rumania had long leaned to the Central Powers, and had been a 
virtual member of the Triple Alliance ; but that during 1913 and 
the early months of 19 14, though her friendliness to Germany 
continued, relations with Austria were becoming strained, while 
Bucharest and Petrograd were once again feeling their way to- 
wards co-operation and understanding. 

The real centre of Teutonic influence in Rumania was to be 
found less in statecraft and diplomacy than in the sphere of finance 
and commerce. King Carol, in calling upon Germany for aid in 
developing his land, had, like the housewife in the fairy tale, in- 
voked a sprite which could not easily be laid. From the early 
eighties Germany had set herself resolutely to capture Rumanian 
trade. She and Austria soon secured the lion's share of imports. 
Her agents were in every town ; she controlled the chief industries ; 
by long credit and goods exactly suited to the market she ousted 
both native and foreign competitors ; and she made use of the large 
German-Jewish section of the commercial community to further her 
ends. The Deutsche Bank and the Disconto-Gesellschaft estab- 
lished themselves, and financed all new undertakings, as well as 
floating Government loans. Presently Rumania's public debt 
was largely in German hands. Germany built the railways and 
improved the ports ; she ousted British and American financiers 
from the control of the great oilfields ; all the electrical industries 
were in her charge, and the rich forests were largely in her power. 
These successes were won by genuine enterprise and the most 
painstaking assiduity. She had consuls to watch her interests in 
every centre, and if a foreign merchant wished a reliable report on 
some Rumanian question, he was compelled to go for it to German 
sources. Such a condition of things could not have come about 
had there not been reasons for it in the economics of Rumania's 
position. She was a non-industrial country, whose exports must 
always be mainly raw materials, mineral and agricultural. She 
therefore needed a highly industrialized country as her chief cus- 
tomer. She could not find this in Turkey or the Balkan States, 
or in Russia, who was herself in a like position. The natural trade 
channels ran westward towards Austria and Germany. Hence 
there was a reason for keeping on good terms with the Central 



142 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. 

Powers far stronger than any treaty, a reason based on the liveli- 
hood of the humblest citizen. They represented for Rumania her 
bread and butter. A breach would only come if a crisis arose so 
tremendous that prudential considerations were forgotten, or an 
ally was found who could provide her with a more excellent way 
of life. 

For the feeling of the people, in which the various problems of 
foreign policy and economics are reflected, and by which they are 
ultimately decided, we must look to the condition of Rumanian 
politics from the accession of King Carol onwards. The traditional 
parties were the Liberals and the Conservatives, the " Reds " and 
the " Whites," representing respectively the trading and profes- 
sional classes and the landed aristocracy. At the beginning of 
King Carol's reign the National Liberals, under the elder Bratianu, 
were in power, and it was the Liberal Prime Minister who played 
a chief part in effecting the Austrian alliance of 1883. During his 
twelve years' term of office he aimed at extending the area of 
government control and building up a bureaucracy. Among the 
Conservatives a group of Tory democrats, called Junimists, arose, 
including men like Carp, Majorescu, and Marghiloman, who stood 
for individual liberty, and were, on the whole, more democratic 
than any section of the Liberal ranks. From 1891 onward the 
opposition between the two tended to become stereotyped and 
artificial, the ordinary game of the " ins " and " outs." But in 
19 10, when the younger Bratianu became head of the Liberal 
party, the Conservatives woke into life, and, under Take Jonescu, 
revived the old creed of the Tory democrats. The Cabinet which 
conducted the war with Bulgaria had a Junimist — Majorescu — 
as Premier, and two others, Take Jonescu and Marghiloman, as 
members. It fell from power in 19 14, largely through its failure 
to secure any concessions from Hungary on the subject of Tran- 
sylvania, and the Liberals, under Bratianu, took office with large 
majorities in both chambers. 

So far there was no serious division between the parties on the 
question of foreign policy. The National Liberals, representing 
largely the commercial classes, were well alive to the value, and 
indeed the necessity, of the Austro-German connection. Among 
the Conservatives the Junimists were mainly pro-German, espe- 
cially the leaders, Carp, Marghiloman, and Majorescu. Of the 
old Conservatives, men like Filipescu and Lahovary had leanings 
towards Russia, and a deep friendship for France. Take Jonescu 
stood by himself. He was convinced that great events were 



ACCESSION OF KING FERDINAND. 143 

preparing, and he looked further into the future than his colleagues. 
He envisaged a situation in which Rumania's course must be deter- 
mined on other grounds than the traditional attachments of poli- 
ticians. On the eve of war we may say that the general tendency 
of the politicians was conservative — to cling to the old Teutonic 
alliance, but that the Balkan Wars and the growing friendliness with 
Russia had somewhat weakened that alliance. They were for the 
most part in the mood to judge a new situation on its merits, and 
follow that tradition of realpolitik which forty years before King 
Carol had learned from Bismarck. 

The first days of August 19 14 brought Rumania face to face 
with the great decision. King Carol alone had no doubts. His 
German training and antecedents, and his lifelong friendship 
with the Central Powers, arrayed his sympathies on the Teutonic 
side. Moreover, he considered Rumania bound by the treaty of 
1883 to intervene on Austria's behalf. His Government took a 
different view. They argued, as Italy argued in a similar case, 
that the occasion provided for by the terms of the agreement had 
not arisen, since they had had no notice of the sudden and violent 
procedure of Vienna, and Austria-Hungary must be considered the 
party attacking and not the attacked. It was clear that popular 
opinion was not in favour of intervention, and accordingly the 
King summoned on 4th August a special advisory Council, to 
which the Ministers and the leaders of the Opposition were alike 
invited. The question put to the members was that of immediate 
intervention on behalf of the Central Powers, and the King's policy 
had Carp as its sole supporter. Majorescu and Marghiloman pre- 
ferred to wait, and to intervene only when Germany had made her 
victory certain. By an overwhelming majority the Council decreed 
in favour of neutrality, and the army, when appealed to, gave the 
same decision. The King, who believed that the verdict was 
against Rumania's interests and a stain on Rumania's honour, 
was compelled to acquiesce. Two months later, on the 10th of 
October 1914, he died. 

His successor was his nephew Ferdinand, who had married a 
granddaughter of Queen Victoria. The new King had not the 
German leanings of his predecessor, and could consider his country's 
interests with an undivided mind ; while the Queen made no secret 
of her sympathy with the Allied cause. For the better part of 
two years, with the eyes of the world on her, Rumania suspended 
her judgment, swayed now hither now thither by the turn of events, 
while her press and her platforms were filled with propagandist. 



144 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. 

strife. The only alternatives were continued neutrality or entry 
into war on the Allied side. Never since the first month of the 
campaign had there been any real chance of her joining the Central 
Powers. Germany's performance in Belgium, her declaration of 
arrogant aims, and the plans for the Near East which she had 
loudly proclaimed, could have no attraction for a people which 
cherished its national independence. Moreover, the appearance 
of France, Russia, and Italy in the field awakened the sentiment 
and memories of a race which was part Latin and part Slav, but 
in no way Teuton. 

With the first Russian successes the contest began between 
those Rumanians who clamoured for immediate union with the 
Allies, those who advocated delay, and those who were frankly on 
the German side. Of the first party were Take Jonescu and Fili- 
pescu ; of the second, the Prime Minister, Bratianu ; and of the 
third, Carp, Majorescu, and Marghiloman. Negotiations began 
with Russia, but it remained to be seen whether Petrograd would 
be in a position to fulfil its promises. The Government paid little 
attention to the assiduous overtures from the Central Powers and 
the appeals of the Marghilomanist press, but kept its eyes fixed on 
the northern frontier, where Ivanov was moving towards Cracow. 
In January 1915 Lechitski's advance into the Bukovina seemed to 
bring Rumania's day of action near. Britain lent her £5,000,000, 
the reserves were called up, and Bratianu threw out hints in Par- 
liament of a " decisive " hour approaching. Negotiations were 
proceeding with Russia as to Rumania's territorial rewards — 
difficult negotiations, for Rumania put her claims high, and, having 
already received the promise of much for neutrality alone, wanted 
a large addition in return for alliance. Moreover, before she 
could intervene effectually she must have munitions ; and since 
these could only come from the Western Allies, the road into the 
Black Sea must be cleared. The British guns then sounding at 
the Dardanelles were part of the inducement to Rumania to move. 
But everything miscarried : the British naval attack on the Dar- 
danelles failed, and the landing of 28th April promised at the best 
a slow and difficult campaign. Presently Mackensen struck on 
the Donajetz, and Russia began her great retreat. The day of 
Rumanian intervention had been indefinitely postponed. 

Bratianu had now an intricate game to play. He could not 
afford to quarrel with the triumphant Central Powers ; and though 
he refused to allow munitions of war for Turkey to pass through 
his country, he was compelled to speak Germany fair, and suffer 



THE RUMANIAN ARMY. 145 

Austria to purchase part of the Rumanian wheat crop. With re- 
markable steadfastness he resisted Austro-German blandishments 
and threats, and bided his time. He saw Bulgaria take the plunge 
and Serbia destroyed, and his country's strategic position grow 
daily graver. If she joined the Allies she would be hopelessly 
outflanked, with a hostile Bulgaria to the south and Pflanzer- 
Baltin in Czernovitz. Besides, she had as yet no munitions, and 
hard-pressed Russia could not help her on that score. Meantime 
popular feeling was kindling, and might soon be beyond control. 
The Conservative party had split in two, and a pro-Entente group 
had been formed, with first Lahovary and then Filipescu as its 
leader. The League of National Unity was active, student demon- 
strations filled the capital, and the inaction of the Government was 
attacked alike by the Interventionists under Take Jonescu and the 
pro-Germans under Marghiloman. Few statesmen have been 
placed in a more difficult position than Bratianu during the winter 
of 1915-16. He did the only thing possible in the circumstances, 
and played for time. He allowed the sale of cereals both to Britain 
and to Austria-Germany. It was clear that his policy of " ex- 
pectant neutrality " had the support of the great mass of the 
Rumanian people, as was shown by the vote of confidence which 
he received in both Chambers when Parliament met. 

During the early summer of 1916 a fusion took place between 
Take Jonescu's Young Conservatives and Filipescu's group. More 
and more Take Jonescu, brilliant alike as an orator and a writer, 
was becoming the interpreter of the national ideal. Fabian tactics 
may be wise, but they cannot last for ever. It was his business to 
organize and make explicit that popular feeling which would turn 
the balance with the cautious Bratianu. But arguments were 
preparing more potent than the eloquence of the popular leaders. 
On 4th June Brussilov struck his first blow. On 18th June Lechit- 
ski entered Czernovitz. By the end of the month the Bukovina 
was in Russian hands, and on the 1st of July the Allied armies of 
France and Britain advanced on the Somme. 

In 1875, when King Carol was still busy with his reorganization, 
the Rumanian army numbered 18,000 regulars and 44,000 Ter- 
ritorials. By the law of 1872 men were enlisted for eight years, 
though large numbers were passed into the reserve before they had 
served their term. After the Russo-Turkish War the army was 
increased ; and in 1882 the German system of localized corps, 
drawing all their recruits from one district, was introduced. Four 
army corps were then created. By the law of 1891 a closer 



146 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. 

connection was established between the standing army and the 
Territorial force. The infantry were formed into thirty-four 
regiments, each with one regular and two Territorial battalions; 
while the Militia represented the second line, and a third line 
was available in the levee en masse. Territorials were trained for 
ninety days in their first year of service, and for thirty days in 
subsequent years. In 1902 the regular army was about 60,000 
strong, with 75,000 Territorials. By increasing the available 
equipment, and calling up each year larger numbers of the annual 
class, the numbers grew rapidly, and a fifth army corps was pres- 
ently formed. The declaration of war against Bulgaria in 1913, 
the seizure of Silistria, and the advance on Plevna afforded a good 
test of Rumania's capacity for mobilization. In 1914 the army 
was organized in three main divisions — Active, Reserve, and 
Militia. There were five corps, each of two divisions, with five 
more divisions formed of surplus reservists. Rumania could mobi- 
lize a first-line force of 220 battalions, 83 squadrons, 124 batteries, 
and 19 companies of fortress artillery — a strength of 250,000 rifles, 
18,000 sabres, 300 machine guns, and about 800 field guns and 
howitzers, of which three-fourths were pieces of a recent pattern. 
These figures by no means represented the total available forces. 
In 1913, when the five army corps were mobilized against Bulgaria, 
no less than 200,000 recruits were sent back from the depots without 
being embodied. When the Great War began preparations were 
at once made for marshalling the whole force of the country in 
case of need. Cadres were formed for reserve battalions, and the 
aim was an eventual mobilization of a first-line army of ten corps 
— five active corps, and a reserve corps for each. This would pro- 
vide an effective fighting force of between 500,000 and 600,000 
men. The infantry were armed with the Mannlicher, the field guns 
and field howitzers came from Krupp, and the mountain batteries 
and heavy pieces from Creusot. Munitions were obviously a 
difficulty, for the Krupp supply would be cut off, and the country 
had no large steel works. A considerable supply of shells, however, 
had been accumulated, and Rumania, with Russia's aid, had en- 
deavoured to make herself independent of Germany. She had no 
navy to speak of, only a small river and coast flotilla, with vessels 
conspicuously inferior to the Austrian Danube fleet. Her General 
Staff were for the most part good professional soldiers, who had 
imbibed much of the latest German teaching, but they suffered 
from the fact that few had had any experience of operations in 
the field under war conditions. 



NEGOTIATIONS WITH RUSSIA. 147 

The strategic position, if she joined the Allies, involved a war 
on two fronts. Political considerations would, no doubt, impel 
her to cross the Carpathian passes, then weakly guarded by Austrian 
Landsturm, and occupy Transylvania. There it was difficult to 
believe she would be forestalled. But Bulgaria, at the bidding 
of Germany, was certain to strike, either by an advance into the 
Dobrudja, towards the Tchernavoda bridge which carried the line 
from Constanza to the capital, or by a crossing of the Danube. 
The river line made a formidable barrier on the south ; but it had 
been crossed before, and might be crossed again. Rumania must, 
therefore, use her forces to protect her southern borders on the 
Danube and in the Dobrudja, as well as to press through the passes 
into Transylvania. This the whole Rumanian people took for 
granted, and the wiser strategy — to hold the Carpathian passes 
as a defensive flank, and concentrate on cutting the railway to 
Constantinople — had little chance of consideration. Austria had 
been desperately depleted of men by Brussilov's offensive, and it 
was believed that she could not summon any great force to hold 
Transylvania. It was rather in the direction of Bulgaria that 
danger seemed to lie. Two Bulgarian armies were held by Sarrail 
at Salonika, while another watched the northern and north-eastern 
frontiers. If the last were reinforced by German or Turkish 
troops, a dangerous invasion of the Dobrudja was possible. 

Hence Rumania, having made up her mind on her strategical 
purpose, required certain assurances before she could put it into 
execution. In the first place, Brussilov must continue his pressure 
between the Pripet and the Carpathians, so that Germany and 
Austria should have no troops to spare to reinforce the Tran- 
sylvanian front. In the second place, Sarrail must initiate a vigor- 
ous offensive from Salonika, to keep Bulgaria's attention fixed on 
that quarter. In the third place, Russia must send an army to 
the Dobrudja, to co-operate with the Rumanian forces there. 
Finally, she must see her way to adequate munitions and a con- 
tinuous future supply. This could only come by way of Russia 
from the Western Allies. The first trainload of shells which crossed 
the Moldavian border would be a warning to the Central Powers 
of an imminent declaration of war. 

Early in June Russia pressed for a Rumanian advance to 
coincide with Brussilov's movements. It was the psychological 
moment for a successful entrance into the war, but Bucharest 
was not yet ready. On 17th July Filipescu and Take Jonescu 
spoke at a great Interventionist demonstration. They asked for 



148 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Auc. 

national union, an amalgamation of all parties such as France had 
seen ; and they appealed to the King to prove himself " the best of 
Rumanians." Bratianu said nothing, but he was busy negotiating 
with the Allied Powers — negotiating not only on the objective of 
the coming campaign, but on Rumanian rewards and the safe- 
guards for her future. By the middle of July the matter was 
decided in principle, and the details of the supply of munitions from 
Russia had been settled. A provisional date was fixed for inter- 
vention, but the exact moment had to wait upon the fulfilment of 
certain preliminary guarantees. The Central Powers knew per- 
fectly well what was happening at Bucharest ; but excellent though 
their intelligence system was, they could not fix the date of the 
rupture. Bratianu conducted the game with consummate finesse. 
He saw the Austrian and German Ministers, and left on them the 
impression that his mind was not yet made up. The King, as late 
as 25th August, received in audience Majorescu, who had just 
returned from Germany. He followed the example of his prede- 
cessor, for it was announced on 26th August that the King desired 
to hear in Council the views not only of his Ministers, but of all 
the party leaders. The meeting was fixed for 10 a.m. on the 
following day, 27th August. 

The Council, in spite of the protests of Marghiloman, Carp, and 
Majorescu, ratified by a great majority the decision of the Cabi- 
net. That evening a Note was handed to the Austro-Hungarian 
Minister containing a declaration of war. That Note set forth the 
reasons for Rumania's breach with the Triple Alliance. It referred 
to the long-standing grievance of Transylvania and the ill-treatment 
of the Transylvanian people. The Central Powers, it declared, 
had flung the world into the melting-pot, and old treaties had dis- 
appeared along with more valuable things. " Rumania, governed 
by the necessity of safeguarding her racial interests, finds herself 
forced to enter into line by the side of those who are able to assure 
her the realization of her national unity." To the army the King 
sent a message in the name of the heroes of the past. " The shades 
of Michael the Brave and Stephen the Great, whose mortal remains 
rest in the lands you march to deliver, will lead you to victory as 
worthy successors of the men who triumphed at Rasboieni, at 
Calugareni, and at Plevna." To the people at large he also 
appealed : — 

" The war, which now for two years has hemmed in our position 
more and more closely, has shaken the old foundations of Europe 
and shown that henceforth it is on a national foundation alone that 



igi6] THE DECLARATION OF WAR. 149 

the peaceful life of its peoples can be assured. It has brought the 
day which for centuries has been awaited by our national spirit — the 
day of the union of the Rumanian race. After long centuries of 
misfortune and cruel trials our ancestors succeeded in founding the 
Rumanian state, through the union of the Principalities, through the 
War of Independence, and through indefatigable toil from the time 
of the national renaissance. To-day it is given to us to render endur- 
ing and complete the work for a moment performed by Michael the 
Brave — the union of Rumanians on both sides of the Carpathians. 
It is for us to-day to deliver from the foreign yoke our brothers beyond 
the mountains and in the land of Bukovina, where Stephen the Great 
sleeps his eternal sleep. In us, in the virtues of our race, in our courage, 
lives that potent spirit which will give them once more the right to 
prosper in peace, to follow their ancestral customs, and to realize their 
aspirations in a free and united Rumania from the Theiss to the sea." 

The formal breach was with Austria-Hungary alone, and for 
a moment Bratianu seems to have toyed with the idea of following 
Italy's earlier example, and limiting the war. The Allies made no 
objection. They knew that such a limitation was impracticable, 
and their forecast was right. For on 28th August Germany 
declared war on Rumania, and on 1st September Bulgaria followed 
suit. Fourteen nations were now engaged in the campaigns. 

The entry of Rumania had been for some months expected 
and prepared for by Germany ; and as early as 29th July Falken- 
hayn had made his dispositions. On the surface it gave the Allies 
a powerful recruit. It lengthened the Teutonic battlefield in the 
East by several hundred miles ; it added more than a quarter of a 
million trained soldiers to the Allied strength ; and above all it 
gave them control of economic assets which the Central Powers 
had counted on in their resistance to the British blockade. All 
these things were solid gains ; and yet, paradox as it may seem, 
it is certain that the German High Command did not find the breach 
with Rumania wholly unwelcome. 

Germany's most serious danger lay in the growing unification 
of the Allies' command, and its concentration upon the main 
theatres. Her situation in these theatres was very grave. Every- 
where her offensive had failed ; everywhere she was strategically 
and tactically on the defence. Her assets were dwindling, and if 
the Allied pressure continued relentlessly, the day must come, 
sooner or later, when her field strength must crumble. Her single 
hope was for disunion and divergency once more among her ene- 
mies. She believed that if their efforts were concentrated they 



150 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug. 

could outlast her ; but if by some fortunate chance they should 
begin again to dissipate their energies, then the Central Powers, 
with their unity of purpose and uniformity of organization, might 
prove the stronger. Her desire was for a return of those happy 
days when the main fronts in Europe were stagnant, and at Gallipoli 
and in the Balkans France and Britain wasted themselves in vain 
adventures. 

The appearance of Rumania in the war seemed to promise 
such a chance. The German Staff knew to a decimal Rumania's 
strength, and knew, too, that she would not play the game of war 
in its true rigour. She had her eyes fixed on her unliberated 
kinsfolk, and would advance forthwith on Transylvania. For this 
blunder she would be made to pay dearly, and with good fortune 
Bucharest might go the way of Belgrade and Brussels. But the 
Allies could not permit her to suffer the fate of Serbia. Her posi- 
tion was strategically too vital, and their honour was too deeply 
committed. Therefore in the event of a Rumanian debacle Russian 
armies would hasten to her aid, and Sarrail at Salonika would be 
reinforced by troops destined for the Western battlefield. If this 
happened, the concentration of the Allied purpose would be weak- 
ened, and the unity of the Allied command might go to pieces. 
Brussilov must slacken his efforts, and the deadly acid in the West 
would cease to bite. Out of an apparent misfortune the Teutonic 
League might win a final triumph. 

The calculation was shrewd, as this narrative will show. When 
the Rumanians crossed the passes they marched not to victory 
but to disaster. But the chronicle of their campaign must be post- 
poned while we turn to the great offensive which, since the first 
day of July, the armies of France and Britain had been conduct- 
ing in the West. Meanwhile the German High Command had 
found a new chief. On 28th August the Emperor sent for Hinden- 
burg, and on the following day Falkenhayn resigned. The victor 
of Tannenberg had never seen eye to eye with the Chief of the 
General Staff, and might fairly claim the disasters of the summer 
on the Russian front as proof that he had been in the right. From 
these disasters had sprung Rumanian intervention, and against 
Falkenhayn were also debited the costly failure at Verdun, and — 
what seemed to Germany its consequences — the desperate struggle 
on the Somme, of which the end could not be foreseen. The crisis 
demanded a change of authority, and at the helm was placed the 
old soldier who had the greatest prestige among his countrymen, 
while beside him was set Ludendorff, who had shown himself the 



i 9 i6] FALKENHAYN RESIGNS. 151 

ablest organizer of campaigns. It was to prove a formidable 
partnership in the succeeding two years. Falkenhayn, the most 
intellectual of Germany's commanders, had not the character or 
temperament for the kind of war which was now forced upon her. 
A more patient, if a slower, mind, a tougher fortitude, a more des- 
perate laboriousness in the conserving of every atom of national 
strength, were the gifts demanded ; and these, joined with supreme 
popular confidence, were possessed by the new duumvirate. 



CHAPTER LXII. 

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME. 
June 24-Sepiember 9, 1916. 

The Somme Region — The Strategy and Tactics of the projected Battle — German 
and Allied Dispositions — The Bombardment — The First Day — The Attack of 
14th July — The French Advance — The Crest of the Uplands won. 



I. 

From Arras southward the Western battle-front left the coalpits 
and sour fields of Artois and entered the pleasant region of Picardy. 
The great crook of the upper Somme and the tributary vale of 
the Ancre intersect a rolling tableland, dotted with little towns 
and furrowed by a hundred shallow streams. Nowhere does the 
land rise higher than 500 feet, but a trivial swell— such is the 
nature of the landscape — may carry the eye for thirty miles. There 
were few detached farms, for it was a country of peasant culti- 
vators who clustered in villages. Not a hedge broke the long roll 
of cornlands, and till the higher ground was reached the lines of 
tall poplars flanking the great Roman highroads were the chief land- 
marks. At the lift of country between Somme and Ancre copses 
patched the slopes, and sometimes a church spire was seen above 
the trees from some woodland hamlet. The Somme winds in a 
broad valley between chalk bluffs, faithfully dogged by a canal— 
a curious river which strains, like the Oxus, " through matted 
rushy isles," and is sometimes a lake and sometimes an expanse 
of swamp. The Ancre is such a stream as may be found in Wilt- 
shire, with good trout in its pools. On a hot midsummer day the 
slopes are ablaze with yellow mustard, red poppies, and blue 
cornflowers ; and to one coming from the lush flats of Flanders, 
or the " black country " of the Pas de Calais, or the dreary levels 
of Champagne, or the strange melancholy Verdun hills, this land 

152 



The Old German Front Line, 191 6 
From a painting by Charles Sims, R.A. 



1916] THE SANTERRE. 153 

wore a habitable and cheerful air, as if remote from the oppres- 
sion of war. 

The district is known as the Santerre. Some derive the name 
from sana terra — the healthy land ; others from sarta terra — the 
cleared land. Some say it is sancia terra, for Peter the Hermit was 
a Picard, and the piety of the Crusaders enriched the place with a 
thousand relics and a hundred noble churches. But there are 
those — and they have much to say for themselves — who read the 
name sang terre — the bloody land ; for the Picard was the Gascon 
of the north, and the countryside was an old cockpit of war. It 
was the seat of the government of Clovis and Charlemagne. It 
was ravaged by the Normans, and time and again by the English. 
There Louis XI. and Charles the Bold fought their battles ; it 
suffered terribly in the Hundred Years' War ; it was the " tawny 
ground " which Shakespeare's Henry V. discoloured with blood ; 
German and Spaniard, the pandours of Eugene and the Cossacks 
of Alexander marched across its fields ; from the walls of Peronne 
the last shot was fired in the campaign of 1814. And in the greatest 
war of all it was destined to be the theatre of a struggle com- 
pared with which its ancient conflicts were like the brawls of a 
village fair. 

Till midsummer in 1916 the Picardy front had shown little 
activity. Since that feverish September when Castelnau had 
extended on the Allies' left, and Maud'huy beyond Castelnau, in 
the great race for the North Sea, there had been no serious action. 
Just before the Battle of Verdun began the Germans made a feint 
south of the Somme and gained some ground at Frise and 
Dompierre. There had been local raids and local bombardments, 
but the trenches on both sides were good, and a partial advance 
offered few attractions to either. Amiens was miles behind one 
front, vital points like St. Quentin and Cambrai and La Fere were 
far behind the other. In that region only a very great and con- 
tinuous offensive would offer any strategic results. In July 1915 
the British took over most of the line from Arras to the Somme, 
and on the whole they had a quiet winter in their new trenches. 
This long stagnation led to one result : it enabled the industrious 
Germans to excavate the chalk hills on which they lay into a 
fortress which they believed to be impregnable. Their position 
was naturally strong, and they strengthened it by every device 
which science could provide. Their High Command might look 
uneasily at the Aubers ridge and Lens and Vimy, but it had no 
doubts about the Albert heights. 



154 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

The German plan in the West, as we have seen, after the first 
offensive had been checked at the Marne and Yprcs, was to hold 
their front with abundant guns but the bare minimum of men, 
and use their surplus forces to win a decision in the East. This 
scheme was foiled by the steadfastness of Russia's retreat, which 
surrendered territory freely but kept her armies in being. During 
the winter of 1915-16 the German High Command was growing 
anxious. It saw that the march to the Dvina and the adventure 
in the Balkans had failed to shake the resolution of its opponents. 
It was aware that the Allies had learned with some exactness the 
lesson of eighteen months of war, and that even now they were 
superior in men, and would presently be on an equality in muni- 
tions. Moreover, the Allied Command was becoming concentrated 
and shaking itself free from its old passion for divergent operations. 
Its generals had learned the wisdom of the order of the King of 
Syria to his captains : " Fight neither with small nor great, but 
only with the King of Israel ; " and the King of Israel did not 
welcome the prospect. Now, to quote a famous saying of Foch, 
" A weakening force must always be attacking," and from the 
beginning of 1916 the Central Powers were forced into a continuous 
offensive. Their economic strength was draining steadily. Their 
people had been told that victory was already won, and were 
asking for the fruits of it. They feared greatly the coming Allied 
advance, for they knew that it was meant to be simultaneous on all 
fronts, and they cast about for a means of frustrating it. That 
was the main reason of the great Verdun assault. Germany hoped 
so to weaken the field strength of France that no future blow would 
be possible, and the French nation, weary and dispirited, would in- 
cline to peace. She hoped, in any event, to lure the Allies into 
a premature counter-attack, so that their great offensive might 
go off at half-cock and be defeated piecemeal. 

None of these things happened. Petain at Verdun, as we know, 
handled the defence like a master, and the place became a trap 
where Germany was bleeding to death. Meanwhile, with the full 
assent of Joffre, the British armies made no movement. They 
were biding their time. Early in June the Austrian attack on the 
Trentino had been checked by Italy, and suddenly — in the East 
— Russia swung forward to a surprising victory. W r ithin a month 
nearly half a million Austrians had been put out of action, and the 
distressed armies of the Dual Monarchy called on Germany foi 
help. Falkenhayn grappled as best he could with the situation, 
and such divisions as could be spared were dispatched from the 



i 9 i6] THE WESTERN SALIENT. 155 

West. At this moment, when the grip was tightening in the East, 
France and Britain made ready for a supreme effort. The plan 
had been settled between the two commands at Chantilly as early 
as 14th February. 

Germany's position was intricate and uneasy. She had no 
large surplus of men immediately available at her interior depots. 
The wounded who were ready again for the line and the young 
recruits from the 19 17 class were all needed to fill up the normal 
wastage in her ranks. She might create new divisions, but it would 
be mainly done by skimming the old. She had no longer any great 
mass of free strategic reserves. Most had been sucked into the mael- 
strom of Verdun or dispatched east to Hindenburg. In the West 
she was holding a huge salient — from the North Sea to Soissons, 
and from Soissons to Verdun. If a wedge were driven in on one 
side, the whole apex would be in danger. The Russian field army 
could retire safely from Warsaw and Vilna, because it was mobile 
and lightly equipped, but an army which had been stationary 
for eighteen months and had relied mainly upon its fortifications 
would be apt to find a Sedan in any rapid and extensive retirement. 
The very strength of the German front in the West constituted 
its weakness. A breach in a fluid line may be mended, but a breach 
in a rigid and elaborate front is difficult to fill unless there are large 
numbers of men available for the task or unlimited time. There 
were no such large numbers, and it was likely that the Allies would 
see that there was no superfluity of leisure. 

Yet, in spite of some weakness in the strategic situation, the 
German stronghold in the West was still formidable in the extreme. 
From Arras southward they held in the main the higher ground. 
The front consisted of a strong first position, with firing, support, 
and reserve trenches, and a labyrinth of deep dug-outs ; a less 
strong intermediate line covering the field batteries ; and a second 
position some distance behind, which was of much the same strength 
as the first. Behind lay fortified woods and villages which could 
be readily linked up with trench lines to form third and fourth 
positions. They were well served by the great network of rail- 
ways which radiated from La Fere and Laon, Cambrai and St. 
Quentin, and many new light lines had been constructed. They 
had ample artillery and shells, endless machine guns, and con- 
summate skill in using them. It was a fortress to which no front 
except the West could show a parallel. The Russian soldiers 
who in the early summer were brought to France stared with amaze- 
ment at a ramification of trenches compared with which the lines 



156 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

in Poland and Galicia were like hurried improvisations. The Ger- 
man purpose in the event of an attack was purely defensive. It 
was to hold their ground, to maintain the mighty forts on which 
they had spent so many months of labour, to beat off the assault 
at whatever cost. In that section of their front, at any rate, they 
were resolved to be a stone wall and not a spear point. 

The aim of the Allied Command must be clearly understood. 
It was not to recover so many square miles of France ; it was not 
to take Bapaume or Peronne or St. Quentin ; it was not even in 
the strict sense to carry this or that position. All these things 
were subsidiary and would follow in due course, provided the main 
purpose succeeded. That purpose was simply to exercise a steady 
and continued pressure on a certain section of the enemy's front. 

For nearly two years the world had been full of theories as to 
the possibility of breaking the German line. Many months before 
critics had pointed out the futility of piercing that line on too 
narrow a front, since all that was produced thereby was an awk- 
ward salient. It was clear that any breach must be made on a 
wide front, which would allow the attacking wedge to manoeuvre 
in the gap, and prevent reinforcements from coming up quickly 
enough to reconstitute the line behind. But this view took too 
little account of the strength of the German fortifications. No 
doubt a breach could be made ; but its making would be desper- 
ately costly, for no bombardment could destroy all the defensive 
lines, and infantry in the attack would be somewhere or other 
faced with unbroken wire and unshaken parapets. Gradually it 
had been accepted that an attack should proceed by stages, with, 
as a prelude to each, a complete artillery preparation, and that, 
since the struggle must be long drawn out, fresh troops should be 
used at each stage. The policy was that of " limited objectives," 
but it did not preclude an unlimited objective in the event of some 
local enemy weakness suddenly declaring itself. These were the 
tactics of the Germans at Verdun, and they were obviously right. 
Why, then, did the attack on Verdun fail ? In the first place, 
because after the first week the assault became spasmodic and the 
great plan fell to pieces. Infantry were used wastefully in hopeless 
rushes. The pressure was relaxed for days on end, and the defence 
was allowed to reorganize itself. The second reason, of which the 
first was a consequence, was that Germany, after the initial on- 
slaught, had not the necessary superiority either in numbers or 
moral or guns. At the Somme the Allies did not intend to relax 
their pressure, and their strength was such that they believed that, 



1916] THE GERMAN DISPOSITIONS. 157 

save in the event of abnormal weather conditions, they could keep 
it continuously at a high potential. 

A strategical problem is not, as a rule, capable of being presented 
in a simple metaphor, but it may be said that, to the view of the 
Allied strategy, the huge German salient in the West was like an 
elastic band drawn very tight. Each part of such a band has lost 
elasticity, and may be severed by friction which would do little 
harm to the band if less tautly stretched. That represented one 
element in the situation. Another aspect might be suggested by 
the metaphor of a sea-dyke of stone in a flat country where all 
stone must be imported. The waters crumble the wall in one sec- 
tion, and all free reserves of stone are used to strengthen that part. 
But the crumbling goes on, and to fill the breach stones are brought 
from other sections of the dyke. Some day there may come an 
hour when the sea will wash through the old breach, and a great 
length of the weakened dyke will follow in the cataclysm. 

There v/ere two other motives in the Allied purpose which may 
be regarded as subsidiary. One was to ease the pressure on Verdun, 
which during June had grown to fever pitch. The second was to 
prevent the transference of large bodies of enemy troops from the 
Western to the Eastern front, a transference which might have 
worked havoc with Brussilov's plans. Sir Douglas Haig would 
have preferred to postpone the offensive a little longer, for his 
numbers and munitionment were still growing, and the training 
of the new levies was not yet complete. But the general situation 
demanded that the Allies in the West should not delay their stroke 
much beyond midsummer. 

The German front in the Somme area was held by the right wing 
of the II. Army, formerly Billow's, but now under Fritz von Below. 
This army's area began just south of Monchy, north of which lay 
the VI. Army under the Bavarian Crown Prince. At the end of 
June the front between Gommecourt and Frise was held as follows : 
North of the Ancre lay the 2nd Guard Reserve Division and the 
52nd Division. Between the Ancre and the Somme lay two units 
of the 14th Reserve Corps, in order, the 26th Reserve Division and 
the 28th Reserve Division, and then the 12th Division of the 6th 
Reserve Corps. South of the river, guarding the road to Peronne, 
were the 121st Division, the nth Division, and the 36th Division, 
belonging to the 17th Corps. 

The British armies, as we have seen in earlier chapters, had in 
less than two years grown from the six divisions of the old Expe- 
ditionary Force to a total of some seventy divisions in the field, 



158 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

leaving out of account the troops supplied by the Dominions and 
by India. Behind these divisions were masses of trained men to 
replace wastage for at least another year. The quality of the result 
was not less remarkable than the quantity. The efficiency of the 
supply and transport, the medical services, the aircraft work, was 
universally admitted. The staff and intelligence work — most diffi- 
cult to improvise — was now equal to the best in the field. The 
gunnery was praised by the French, a nation of expert gunners. 
As for the troops themselves, we had secured a homogeneous army 
of which it was hard to say that one part was better than the other. 
By June 19 16 the term New Armies was a misnomer. The whole 
British force in one sense was new. The famous old regiments of 
the line had been completely renewed since Mons, and their drafts 
were drawn from the same source as the men of the new battalions. 
The only difference was that in the historic battalions there was a 
tradition already existing, whereas in the new battalions that tradi- 
tion had to be created. And the creation was quick. If the Old 
Army bore the brunt of the First Battle of Ypres, the Territorials 
were no less heroic in the Second Battle of Ypres, and the New 
Army had to its credit the four-mile charge at Loos. It was no 
patchwork force which in June was drawn up in Picardy, but the 
flower of the manhood of the British Empire, differing in origin 
and antecedents, but alike in discipline and courage and resolution. 

Munitions had grown with numbers. Any one who was present 
at Ypres in April and May 1915 saw the German guns all day 
pounding our lines, with only a feeble and intermittent reply. It 
was better at Loos in September, when we showed that we could 
achieve an intense bombardment. But at that date our equip- 
ment sufficed only for spasmodic efforts, and not for that sustained 
and continuous fire which was needed to destroy the enemy's 
defences. Things were very different in June 1916. Everywhere 
on the long British front there were British guns — heavy guns of 
all calibres, field guns innumerable, and in the trenches there 
were quantities of trench mortars. The great munition dumps, 
constantly depleted and constantly replenished from distant bases, 
showed that there was food enough and to spare for this mass of 
artillery, and in the factories and depots at home every minute saw 
the reserves growing. We no longer fought against a superior 
machine. We had created our own machine to nullify the enemy's 
and allow our man-power to come to grips. 

The coming attack was allotted to the Fourth Army, under 
General Sir Henry Rawlinson, who had begun the campaign in 



i 9 i6] THE BRITISH DISPOSITIONS. 159 

command of the 7th Division, and at Loos had commanded the 
4th Corps. His front ran from south of Gommecourt across the 
Ancre valley to the junction with the French north of Maricourt. 
In his line he had five corps — from left to right, the 8th, under 
Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston — 31st, 4th, and 
29th Divisions ; the 10th, under Lieutenant-General Sir T. L. N. 
Morland — 36th and 32nd Divisions ; the 3rd, under Lieutenant- 
General Sir W. P. Pulteney — 8th and 34th Divisions ; the 15th, 
under Lieutenant-General Home — 21st and 7th Divisions ; and 
the 13th, under Lieutenant-General Congreve, V.C. — 18th and 30th 
Divisions. A subsidiary attack on the extreme left at Gommecourt 
was to be made by Allenby's Third Army — the 7th Corps, under 
Sir T. Snow, containing the 46th and 56th Divisions. Behind 
in the back areas lay the nucleus of another army, called first 
the Reserve, and afterwards the Fifth, under General Sir Hubert 
Gough, which at this time was mainly composed of cavalry divisions. 
It was a cadre which would receive its complement of infantry when 
the occasion arose. 

The French striking force lay from Maricourt astride the Somme 
to opposite the village of Fay. It was the Sixth Army, once 
Castelnau's, and now under General Fayolle, one of the most dis- 
tinguished of French artillerymen. Verdun had made impossible 
the array of thirty-nine divisions which Foch had contemplated, 
and Fayolle mustered only sixteen, including the three divisions 
of the famous 20th Corps. Petain's wise plan of allowing no for- 
mation to be used up now received ample justification. The units 
allotted to the new offensive were all troops who had seen hard 
fighting, but the edge of their temper was undulled. South of 
Fayolle lay the Tenth Army, once d'Urbal's, but now commanded 
by General Micheler. Its part for the present was to wait ; its 
turn would come when the time arrived to broaden the front of 
assault. 

II. 

About the middle of June on the whole front held by the 
British, and on the French front north and south of the Somme, 
there began an intermittent bombardment of the German lines. 
There were raids at different places, partly to mislead the enemy 
as to the real point of assault, and partly to identify the German 
units opposed to us. During these days, too, there were many 
fights in the air. It was essential to prevent German airplanes 



160 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

from crossing our front and observing our preparations. Our 
own machines scouted far into the enemy hinterland, recon- 
noitring and destroying. On Saturday, 24th June, the bombard- 
ment became intenser. It fell everywhere on the front ; German 
trenches were obliterated at Ypres and Arras as well as at Beau- 
mont Hamel and Fricourt. There is nothing harder to measure 
than the relative force of such a " preparation," but had a dis- 
passionate observer been seated in the clouds he would have noted 
that from Gommecourt to a mile or two south of the Somme the 
Allied fire was especially methodical and persistent. On Wed- 
nesday, 28th June, from any artillery observation post in that 
region it seemed as if a complete devastation had been achieved. 
Some things like broken telegraph poles were all that remained of 
what, a week before, had been leafy copses. Villages had become 
heaps of rubble. Travelling at night on the roads behind the 
front from Bethune to Amiens, the whole eastern sky was lit 
up with what seemed fitful summer lightning. But there was 
curiously little noise. In Amiens, a score or so of miles from the 
firing-line, the guns were rarely heard, whereas fifty miles from 
Ypres they sounded like a roll of drums and woke a man in the 
night. The configuration of that part of Picardy muffles sound, 
and the country folk call it the Silent Land. 

All the last week of June the weather was grey and cloudy, 
with a thick fog on the uplands, which made air work unsatis- 
factory. There were flying showers of rain and the roads were 
deep in mire. At the front — through the haze — the guns flashed 
incessantly ; troops were everywhere on the move, and the shifting 
of ammunition dumps nearer to the firing-line foretold what was 
coming ; there was a curious exhilaration, too, for men felt that 
the great offensive had arrived, that this was no flash in the pan, 
but a movement conceived on the grand scale as to guns and men 
which would not cease until a decision was reached. But, as the 
hours passed in mist and wet, it seemed as if the fates were unpro- 
pitious. Then, on the last afternoon of June, there came a sudden 
change. The pall of cloud cleared away and all Picardy swam in 
the translucent blue of a summer evening. That night the orders 
went out. The attack was to be delivered next morning three 
hours after dawn. 

The first day of July dawned hot and cloudless, though a thin 
fog, the relic of the damp of the past week, clung to the hollows. 
At half-past five the hill just west of Albert offered a singular view. 
It was almost in the centre of the section allotted to the Allied 



IQI 6] THE BOMBARDMENT. 161 

attack, and from it the eye could range on the left up and beyond 
the Ancre glen to the high ground around Beaumont Hamel and 
Serre ; in front to the great lift of tableland behind which lay 
Bapaume ; and to the right past the woods of Fricourt to the valley 
of the Somme. Every slope to the east was wreathed in smoke, 
which blew aside now and then and revealed a patch of wood or 
a church spire. In the foreground lay Albert, the target of an 
occasional German shell, with its shattered Church of Notre Dame 
de Bebrieres and the famous gilt Virgin hanging head downward 
from the campanile. All along the Allied front, a couple of miles 
behind the line, captive kite balloons glittered in the sunlight. 
Every gun on a front of twenty-five miles was speaking, and 
speaking without pause. In that week's bombardment more light 
and medium ammunition was expended than the total amount 
manufactured in Britain during the first eleven months of war, 
while the heavy stuff produced during the same period would not 
have kept our guns going for a single day. Great spurts of dust 
on the slopes showed where a heavy shell had burst, and black 
and white gouts of smoke dotted the middle distance like the 
little fires in a French autumn field. Lace-like shrapnel wreaths 
hung in the sky, melting into the morning haze. The noise was 
strangely uniform, a steady rumbling, as if the solid earth were 
muttering in a nightmare, and it was hard to distinguish the deep 
tones of the heavies, the vicious whip-like crack of the field guns, 
and the bark of the trench mortars. 

About 7.15 the bombardment rose to that hurricane pitch of 
fury which betokened its close. It was as if titanic machine guns 
were at work round all the horizon. Then appeared a marvellous 
sight, the solid spouting of the enemy slopes — as if they were lines 
of reefs on which a strong tide was breaking. In such a hell it 
seemed that no human thing could live. Through the thin summer 
vapour and the thicker smoke which clung to the foreground there 
were visions of a countryside actually moving — moving bodily in 
debris into the air. And now there was a fresh sound — a series 
of abrupt and rapid bursts which came gustily from the first lines. 
These were the new Stokes trench mortars — wonderful little engines 
of death. There was another sound, too, from the north, as if 
the cannonading had suddenly come nearer. It looked as if the 
Germans had begun a counter-bombardment on part of the 
British front line. 

The staff officers glanced at their watches, and at half-past 
seven precisely there came a lull. It lasted for a second or two. 



162 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

and then the guns continued their tale. But the range had been 
lengthened everywhere, and from a bombardment the fire had 
become a barrage. For, on a twenty-five mile front, the Allied 
infantry had crossed the parapets. 



III. 

The point of view of the hill-top was not that of the men in 
the front trenches. The crossing of the parapets was the supreme 
moment in modern war. The troops were outside defences, 
moving across the open to investigate the unknown. It was the 
culmination of months of training for officers and men, and the 
least sensitive felt the drama of the crisis. It was the first great 
action fought by the New Armies of Britain in their full strength. 
Most of the troops engaged had twenty months before been em- 
ployed in peaceable civilian trades. In their ranks were every 
class and condition — miners from north England, factory hands 
from the industrial centres, clerks and shop-boys, ploughmen and 
shepherds, Saxon and Celt, college graduates and dock labourers, 
men who in the wild places of the earth had often faced danger, 
and men whose chief adventure had been a Sunday bicycle ride. 
Nerves may be attuned to the normal risks of trench warfare and 
yet shrink from the desperate hazard of a charge into the enemy's 
line. But to one who visited the front before the attack the most 
vivid impression was that of quiet cheerfulness. There were few 
shirkers and not many who wished themselves elsewhere. One 
man's imagination might be more active than another's, but the 
will to fight, and to fight desperately, was universal. With the 
happy gift of the British soldier they had turned the ghastly business 
of war into something homely and familiar. Accordingly they took 
everything as part of the day's work, and awaited the supreme 
moment without heroics and without tremor, confident in them- 
selves, confident in their guns, and confident in the triumph 
of their cause. There was no savage lust of battle, but that far 
more formidable thing — a resolution which needed no rhetoric to 
suppoit it. Norfolk's words were true of every man of them — 

" As gentle and as jocund as to jest 
Go I to fight. Truth hath a quiet breast." 

The British aim in this, the opening stage of the battle, was 
the German first position. In the section of assault, running from 
north to south, it covered Gommecourt, passed east of Hebuterne, 



1916] GOMMECOURT AND THIEPVAL. 163 

followed the high ground in front of Serre and Beaumont Hamel, 
and crossed the Ancre a little to the north-west of Thiepval. It 
ran in front of Thiepval, which was strongly fortified, east of 
Authuille, and just covered the hamlets of Ovillers and La Bois- 
selle. There it ran about a mile and a quarter east of Albert. It 
then passed south round the woodland village of Fricourt, where 
it turned at right angles to the east, covering Mametz and Mont- 
auban. Half-way between Maricourt and Hardecourt it turned 
south again, covered Curlu, crossed the Somme at the wide marsh 
near the place called Vaux, covered Frise and Dompierre and 
Soyecourt, and passed just east of Lihons, where it left the sector 
with which we are now concerned. In the British area the main 
assault was to be delivered between Maricourt and the Ancre ; 
the attack from that river to Gommecourt was meant to be 
subsidiary. 

It is clear that the Germans expected the movement of the 
Allies, and had made a fairly accurate guess as to its terrain. They 
assumed that the area would be from Arras to Albert. In all 
that stretch they were ready with a full concentration of men and 
guns. South of Albert they were less prepared, and south of the 
Somme they were caught napping. The history of the first day 
was therefore the story of two separate actions in the north and 
south, in the first of which the Allies failed and in the second of 
which they brilliantly succeeded. By the evening the first action 
had definitely closed, and the weight of the Allies was flung wholly 
into the second. That is almost inevitable in an attack on a very 
broad front. Some part will be found tougher than the rest, and 
that part having been tried will be relinquished ; but it is the stub- 
bornness of the knot and the failure to take it which are the price 
of success elsewhere. Let us first tell the tale of the desperate 
struggle between Gommecourt and Thiepval. 

The divisions in action there had to face a chain of fortified 
villages — Gommecourt, Serre, Beaumont Hamel, and Thiepval — 
and enemy positions which were generally on higher and better 
ground. The Ancre cut the line in two, with steep slopes rising 
from the valley bottom. Each village had been so fortified as 
to be almost impregnable, with a maze of catacombs, often two 
stories deep, where whole battalions could take refuge, under- 
ground passages from the firing-line to sheltered places in the 
rear, and pits into which machine guns could be lowered during 
a bombardment. On the plateau behind, with excellent direct 
observation, the Germans had their guns massed. 



164 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

It was this direct observation and the deep shelters for machine 
guns which were the undoing of the British attack from Gomme- 
court to Thiepval. As our bombardment grew more intense on 
the morning of ist July, so did the enemy's. Before we could 
go over the parapets the Germans had plastered our front trenches 
with high explosives, and in many places blotted them out. All 
along our line, fifty yards before and behind the first trench, they 
dropped 6-inch and 8-inch high-explosive shells. The result was 
that our men, instead of forming up in the front trench, were 
compelled to form up in the open ground behind, for the front 
trench had disappeared. In addition to this there was an intense 
shrapnel barrage, which must have been directed by observers, 
for it followed our troops as they moved forward. 

As our men began to cross no-man's-land, the Germans 
seemed to man their ruined parapets, and fired rapidly with auto- 
matic rifles and machine guns. They had special light musketon 
battalions, armed with machine guns and automatic rifles, who 
showed marvellous intrepidity, some even pushing their guns into 
no-man's-land to enfilade our advance. Moreover, they had 
machine-gun pits far in front of their parapets, connected with 
their trenches by deep tunnels secure from shell fire. The British 
moved forward in line after line, dressed as if on parade ; not a 
man wavered or broke rank ; but minute by minute the ordered 
lines melted away under the deluge of high-explosive, shrapnel, 
rifle, and machine-gun fire. There was no question about the 
German weight of artillery. From dawn till long after noon they 
maintained this steady drenching fire. Gallant individuals or 
isolated detachments managed here and there to break into the 
enemy position, and some even penetrated well behind it ; but 
these were episodes, and the ground they won could not be held. 
By the evening, from Gommecourt to Thiepval, the attack had 
been everywhere checked, and our troops — what was left of them 
—were back again in their old line. They had struck the core of 
the main German defence. 

In that stubborn action against impossible odds the gallantry 
was so universal and absolute that it is idle to select special cases. 
In each mile there were men who performed the incredible. Nearly 
every English, Scots, and Irish regiment was represented, as well 
as Midland and London Territorials, a gallant little company of 
Rhodesians, and a Newfoundland battalion drawn from the hard- 
bitten fishermen of that iron coast, who lost terribly on the slopes 
of Beaumont Hamel. Repeatedly the German position was pierced. 



i 9 i6] THE ULSTER DIVISION. 165 

At Scire fragments of two battalions pushed as far as Pendant 
Copse, 2,000 yards from the British lines. Troops of the 29th 
Division broke through south of Beaumont Hamel, and got to 
the Station Road beyond the Quarry, but few ever returned. One 
Scottish battalion entered Thiepval village. North of Thiepval the 
Ulster Division broke through the enemy trenches, passed the crest 
of the ridge, and reached the point called The Crucifix, in rear 
of the first German position. For a little they held the strong 
Schwaben Redoubt, which we were not to enter again till after 
three months of battle, and some even got into the outskirts 
of Grandcourt. It was the anniversary day of the Battle of 
the Boyne, and that charge when the men shouted " Remember 
the Boyne," will be for ever a glorious page in the annals of 
Ulster. The splendid troops, drawn from those volunteers who 
had banded themselves together to defend their own freedom, 
now shed their blood like water for the liberty of the world. 

That grim struggle from Thiepval northward was responsible 
for by far the greater number of the Allied losses of the day. But 
though costly it was not fruitless, for it occupied the bulk of the 
German defence. It was the price which had to be paid for the 
advance on the rest of the front. For while in the north the living 
wave broke vainly and gained little, in the south " by creeks and 
inlets making " the tide was flowing strongly shoreward. 

The map will show that Fricourt formed a bold salient ; and it 
was the Allied purpose not to assault this salient but to cut it off. 
An advance on Ovillers and La Boisselle and up the long shallow 
depression towards Contalmaison, which our men called Sausage 
Valley, would, if united with the carrying of Mametz, pinch it so 
tightly that it must fall. Ovillers and La Boisselle were strongly 
fortified villages, and on this first day, while we won the outskirts 
and carried the entrenchments before them, we did not control the 
ruins which our guns had pounded out of the shape of habitable 
dwellings, though elements of one brigade actually penetrated into 
La Boisselle and held a portion of the village. 

Just west of Fricourt the 21st Division was engaged, the division 
which had suffered grave misfortunes at Loos. That day it re- 
covered its own, and proved once again that an enemy can meet no 
more formidable foes than British troops which have a score to 
wipe off. It made no mistake, but poured resolutely into the angle 
east of Sausage Valley, carrying Lozenge Wood and Round Wood, 
and driving in a deep wedge north of Fricourt. Before evening 



i66 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

Mametz fell. Its church stood up, a broken tooth of masonry 
among the shattered houses, with an amphitheatre of splintered 
woods behind and around it. South of it ran a high road, and 
south of the road lay a little hill, with the German trench lines on 
the southern side. Opposite Mametz our assembly trenches had 
been destroyed by the enemy's fire, so that the attacking infantry 
had to advance over 400 yards of open ground. The 7th Division 
which took the place was one of the most renowned in the British 
Army. It had fought at First Ypres, at Festubert, and at Loos. 
Since the autumn of 19 14 it had been changed in its composition, 
but there were in it battalions which had been for twenty months 
in the field. The whole division, old and new alike, went forward 
to their task as if it were their first day of war. On the slopes of 
the little hill three battalions advanced in line — one from a southern 
English county, one from a northern city, one of Highland regulars 
They carried everything before them, and to one who followed 
their track the regularity of their advance was astonishing, for the 
dead lay aligned as if on some parade. 

Montauban fell early in the day to the 30th Division. The 
British lines lay in the hollow north of the Albert-Peronne road, 
where stood the hamlet of Carnoy. On the crest of the ridge 
beyond lay Montauban, now, like most Santerre villages, a few 
broken walls set among splintered trees. The brickfields on the 
right were expected to be the scene of a fierce struggle, but, to our 
amazement, they had been so shattered by our guns that they were 
taken easily. The Montauban attack was perhaps the most perfect 
of the episodes of the day. The artillery had done its work, and 
the 6th Bavarian Regiment opposed to us lost 3,000 out of a total 
strength of 3,500. At that point was seen a sight hitherto unwit- 
nessed in the campaign — the advance in line of the troops of Britain 
and France. On the British right lay the 20th Corps — the corps 
which had held the Grand Couronne of Nancy in the feverish days 
of the Marne battle, and which by its counter-attack at Douaumont 
on that snowy 26th of February had turned the tide at Verdun. 
It was the 39th Division, under General Nourrisson, which moved 
in line with the British — horizon-blue beside khaki, and behind 
both the comforting bark of the " 75 's." 

From the point of junction with the British for eight miles 
southward the French advanced with lightning speed and complete 
success. From Maricourt to the Somme the country was still 
upland, but lower than the region to the north. South of the 
marshy Somme valley an undulating plain stretched east to the 



I 9 i6] THE SECOND DAY. 167 

great crook of the river beyond which lay Peronne, a fortress 
girdled by its moat of three streams. Foch had planned his advance 
on the same lines as the British, the same methodical preparation, 
the same limited objective for each stage. North of the Somme 
there was a stiff fight on the Albert-Peronne road, at the cliff abut- 
ting on the river called the " Gendarme's Hat," and in front of 
the villages of Curlu and Hardecourt. Of these on that first day 
of July the French reached the outskirts, as we reached the out- 
skirts of Fricourt and La Boisselle, but had to postpone their 
capture till the morrow. South of the river the Colonial Corps, 
whose attack did not begin till 9.30 a.m., took the enemy com- 
pletely by surprise. Officers were captured shaving in their dug- 
outs, whole battalions were rounded up, and all was done with the 
minimum of loss. One French regiment had two casualties ; 800 
was the total of one division. Long ere evening the villages of 
Dompierre, Becquincourt, and Bussu were in their hands, and five 
miles had teen bitten out of the German front. Fay was taken 
the same day by the French 35th Corps. Between them the Allies 
in twelve hours had captured the enemy first position in its entir- 
ety from Mametz to Fay, a front of fourteen miles. Some 6,000 
prisoners were in their hands, and a great quantity of guns and 
stores. In the powdered trenches, in the woods and valleys behind, 
and in the labyrinths of ruined dwellings, the German dead lay 
thick. " That is the purpose of the battle," said a French officer. 
" We do not want guns, for Krupp can make them faster than we 
can take them. But Krupp cannot make men." 

Sunday, the 2nd of July, was a day of level heat, when the 
dust stood in steady walls on every road behind the front and in 
the tortured areas of the captured ground. The success of the 
Saturday had, as we have seen, put the British right wing well in 
advance of their centre, and it was necessary to bring forward the 
left part of the line from Thiepval to Fricourt so as to make the 
breach in the German position uniform over a broad enough front. 
The extreme British left was now inactive. A new attack in the 
circumstances would have given no results, and the Ulster Division — 
what remained of its advanced guard — fell back from the Schvvaben 
Redoubt to its original line. The front was rapidly getting too 
large and intricate for any single army commander to handle, so 
it was resolved to give the terrain north of the Albert-Bapaume 
road, including the area of the 4th and 8th Corps, to the Reserve 
or Fifth Army, under Sir Hubert Gough. 

All that day a fierce struggle was waged by the British 3rd 



168 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

Corps at Ovillers and La Boisselle. Two new divisions — the 12th 
and the 19th— had entered the line. At Ovillers the 12th carried 
the entrenchments before it, and late in the evening the 19th 
succeeded in entering the labyrinth of cellars, the ruins of what 
had been La Boisselle. The 34th Division on their right, pushing 
across Sausage Valley, came to the skirts of the Round Wood. 
As yet there was no counter-attack. The surprise in the south 
had been too great, and the Germans had not yet brought up 
their reserve divisions. All that day squadrons of Allied air- 
planes bombed depots and lines of communications in the German 
hinterland. The long echelons of the Allied " sausages " glittered 
in the sun, but only one German kite balloon could be detected. 
We had found a way — the Verdun way — of bombing those fragile 
gas-bags and turning them into wisps of flame. The Fokkers 
strove in vain to check our airmen, and at least two were brought 
crashing to the earth. 

At noon on Sunday Fricourt fell ; the taking of Mametz and 
the positions won in the Fricourt Wood to the east had made its 
capture certain. The 21st Division took Round Wood ; the 17th, 
brought up from corps reserve, attacked across the Fricourt- 
Contalmaison road ; and the 7th carried the village. During the 
night part of the garrison had slipped out, but when our men entered 
it, bombing from house to house, they made a great haul of prisoners 
and guns. Early that morning the Germans had counter-attacked 
at Montauban, and been easily repulsed, and during the day our 
patrols were pushed east into Bernafay Wood. Farther south 
the French continued their victorious progress. They destroyed 
a German counter-attack on the new position at Hardecourt ; 
they took Curlu ; and south of the river they took Frise and the 
wood of Mereaucourt beyond it, and the strongly fortified village 
of Herbecourt. They did more, for at many points between the 
river and Assevillers they broke into the German second position. 
Fayolle's left now commanded the light railway from Combles to 
Peronne, his centre held the big loop of the Somme at Frise, and 
his right was only four miles from Peronne itself. 

On Monday, 3rd July, Fritz von Below issued an order to his 
troops, which showed that he had no delusion as to the gravity of 
the Allied offensive. " The decisive issue of the war," he said, 
" depends on the victory of the II. Army on the Somme. . . . The 
important ground lost in certain places will be recaptured by our 
attack after the arrival of reinforcements. The vital thing is to 
hold on to our present positions at all costs and to improve them. 



iqi6] THE NEW FRONT. 169 

I forbid the voluntary evacuation of trenches." He had correctly 
estimated the position. The old ground, with all it held, must 
be rewon if possible ; no more must be lost ; fresh lines must be 
constructed in the rear. But the new improvised lines could be 
no equivalent of those mighty fastnesses which represented the 
work of eighteen months; therefore those fastnesses must be 
regained. We shall learn how ill his enterprise prospered. 

For a correct understanding of the position on Monday, 3rd 
July, it is necessary to recall the exact alignment of the new British 
front. It fell into two sections. The first lay from Thiepval to 
Fricourt, and was bisected by the Albert-Bapaume road, which 
ran like an arrow over the watershed. Here Thiepval, Ovillers, 
and La Boisselle were positions in the German first line. Contal- 
maison, to the east of La Boisselle, was a strongly fortified village 
on high ground, which formed, so to speak, a pivot in the German 
intermediate line — the line which covered their field guns. The 
second position ran through Pozieres to the two Bazentins and on 
to Guillemont. On the morning of 3rd July the British had not 
got Thiepval nor Ovillers ; they had only a portion of La Boisselle ; 
but south of it they had broken through the first position and were 
well on the road to Contalmaison. All this northern section con- 
sisted of bare undulating slopes — once covered with crops, but now 
powdered and bare like some alkali desert. Everywhere it was 
seamed with the scars of trenches and pock-marked with shell- 
holes. The few trees lining the roads had been long razed, and 
the only vegetation was coarse grass, thistles, and the ubiquitous 
poppy and mustard. The southern section, from Fricourt to 
Montauban, was of a different character. It was patched with 
large woods, curiously clean cut like the copses in the park of a 
country house. A line of them ran from Fricourt north-eastward 
— Fricourt Wood, Bottom Wood, the big wood of Mametz, the 
woods of Bazentin, and the wood of Foureaux, which our men 
called High Wood ; while from Montauban ran a second line, the 
woods of Bernafay and Trdnes, and Delville Wood around Longue- 
val. Here all the German first position had been captured. The 
second position ran through the Bazentins, Longueval, and Guille- 
mont, but to reach it some difficult woodland country had to be 
traversed. On 3rd July, therefore, the southern half of the British 
line was advancing against the enemy's second position, while the 
northern half had still for its objective Ovillers and La Boisselle 
in the first position, and the intermediate point Contalmaison. 
It will be convenient to take the two sections separately, since 



170 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

their problems were different, and see the progress of the British 
advance in each, preparatory to the assault on the enemy's second 
line. In the north our task was to carry the three fortified 
places, Ovillers, La Boisselle, and Contain) aison, which were on a 
large scale the equivalent of the fortius, manned by machine guns, 
which we had known to our cost at Festubert and Loos. The 
German troops in this area obeyed to the full Below's instructions, 
and fought hard for every acre. On the night of Sunday, 2nd 
July, La Boisselle was penetrated, and all Monday the struggle 
swayed around that village and Ovillers. La Boisselle lay on the 
right of the highroad ; Ovillers was to the north and a little to 
the east, separated by a dry hollow which we called Mash Valley. 
On Monday the 12th Division attacked south of Thiepval, but 
failed to advance, largely because its left flank was unsupported. 
All night the struggle see-sawed, our troops winning ground and 
the Germans winning back small portions. On Tuesday, the 4th, 
the heat wave broke in thunderstorms and torrential rain, and 
the dusty hollows became quagmires. Next morning La Boisselle 
was finally carried, after one of the bloodiest contests of the battle, 
and the attack was carried forwards toward Bailiff Wood and 
Contalmaison. 

That day, Wednesday, the 5th, we attacked the main defences 
of Contalmaison from the west. On Friday, 7th July, came the 
first big attack on Contalmaison from Sausage Valley on the south- 
west, and from the tangle of copses north-east of Fricourt, through 
which ran the Fricourt-Contalmaison highroad. On the latter side 
good work had already been done, the enemy fortius at Birch Tree 
Wood and Shelter Wood and the work called the Quadrangle 
having been taken on 3rd July, along with 1,100 prisoners. On 
the Friday the attack ranged from the Leipzig Redoubt, south of 
Thiepval, and the environs of Ovillers to the skirts of Contal- 
maison. About noon the infantry of the 19th Division, after 
carrying Bailiff Wood, took Contalmaison by storm, releasing a 
small party of Northumberland Fusiliers, who had been made 
prisoners four days earlier. The 3rd Guard Division — the famous 
" Cockchafers " — were now our opponents. They were heavily 
punished, and 700 of them fell as prisoners into our hands. But 
our success at Contalmaison was beyond our strength to main- 
tain, and in the afternoon a counter-attack forced us out of the 
village. That same day the 12th and the 25th Divisions had 
pushed their front nearly half a mile along the Bapaume road, 
east of La Boisselle, and taken most of the Leipzig Redoubt. 



i 9 .6] THE WOOD OF MAMETZ. 171 

Ovillers was now in danger of envelopment. One brigade had 
attacked in front, and another, pressing in on the north-east flank, 
was cutting the position in two. All that day there was a deluge 
of rain, and the sodden ground and flooded trenches crippled the 
movement of our men. 

Next day the struggle for Ovillers continued. The place was 
now a mass of battered trenches, rubble, and muddy shell-holes, 
and every yard had to be fought for. We were also slowly con- 
solidating our ground around Contalmaison, and driving the Ger- 
mans from their strongholds in the little copses. Ever since 7th 
July we had held the southern corner of the village. On the night 
of Monday, the 10th, pushing from Bailiff Wood on the west side 
in four successive waves, with the guns lifting the range in front 
of them, a brigade of the 23rd Division broke into the north-west 
corner, swept round on the north, and after bitter hand-to-hand 
fighting conquered the whole village. As for Ovillers, it was now 
surrounded and beyond succour, and it was only a question of days 
till its stubborn garrison must yield. It did not actually fall till 
Sunday, 16th July, when the gallant remnant — two officers and 
124 Guardsmen — surrendered to the 25th Division. By that time 
our main battle had swept far to the eastward. 

To turn to the southern sector, where the problem was to clear 
out the fortified woods which intervened between us and the Ger- 
man second line. From the crest of the first ridge behind Fricourt 
and Montauban one looked into a shallow trough, called Cater- 
pillar Valley, beyond which the ground rose to the Bazentin- 
Longueval line. On the left, toward Contalmaison, was the big 
Mametz Wood ; to the right, beyond Montauban, the pear-shaped 
woods of Bernafay and Trones. On Monday, the 3rd, the ground 
east of Fricourt Wood was cleared, and the approaches to Mametz 
Wood won. That day a German counter-attack developed. A 
fresh division arrived at Montauban, which was faithfully handled 
by our guns. The " milking of the line " had begun, for a bat- 
talion from the Champagne front appeared east of Mametz early 
on Monday morning. Within a very short time of detraining at 
railhead the whole battalion had been destroyed or made prisoners. 
In one small area over a thousand men were taken. 

Next day, Tuesday, 4th July, we had entered the Wood of 
Mametz, 3,000 yards north of Mametz village, and had taken the 
Wood of Bernafay. These intermediate positions were not acquired 
without a grim struggle. The woods were thick with undergrowth 
which had not been cut for two seasons, and though our artillery 



172 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Jui.y 

played havoc with the trees it could not clear away the tangled 
shrubbery beneath them. The Germans had filled the place with 
machine-gun redoubts, connected by concealed trenches, and in 
some cases they had machine guns in positions in the trees. Each 
step in our advance had to be fought for, and in that briery laby- 
rinth the battle tended always to become a series of individual 
combats. Every position we won was subjected at once to a heavy 
counter-bombardment. During the first two days of July it was 
possible to move in moderate safety almost up to the British 
firing-lines, but from the 4th onward the enemy kept up a steady 
bombardment of our whole new front, and barraged heavily in all 
the hinterland around Fricourt, Mametz, and Montauban. 

On Saturday, 8th July, the 30th Division made a lodgment in 
the Wood of Trdnes, assisted by the flanking fire of the French guns. 
On that day the French on our right were advancing towards 
Maltzhorn Farm. For the next five days Trones Wood was the 
hottest corner in the southern British sector. Its peculiar situa- 
tion gave every chance to the defence. There was only one covered 
approach to it from the west — by way of the trench called Trones 
Alley. The southern part was commanded by the Maltzhorn ridge, 
and the northern by the German position at Longueval. Around 
the wood to north and east the enemy second line lay in a half- 
moon, so that they could concentrate upon it a converging artillery 
fire, and could feed their own garrison in the place with reserves 
at their pleasure. Finally, the denseness of the covert, cut only 
by the railway clearings and the German communication trenches, 
made organized movement impossible. It was not till our pressure 
elsewhere diverted the German artillery fire that the wood as a 
whole could be won. Slowly and stubbornly we pushed our way 
northwards from our point of lodgment in the southern end. Six 
counter-attacks were launched against us on Sunday night and 
Monday, and on Monday afternoon the sixth succeeded in winning 
back some of the wood. These desperate efforts exactly suited 
our purpose, for the German losses under our artillery fire were 
enormous. The fighting was continued on Tuesday, when we 
recaptured the whole of the wood except the extreme northern 
corner. That same day we approached the north end of Mametz 
Wood. The difficulty of the fighting and the strength of the defence 
may be realized from the fact that the taking of a few hundred 
yards or so of woodland meant invariably the capture of several 
hundred prisoners. 

By Wednesday evening, 12th July, the 21st Division had taken 



1916] FAYOLLE'S ADVANCE. 173 

virtually the whole of Mametz Wood. Its two hundred odd acres, 
interlaced with barbed wire, honeycombed with trenches, and 
bristling with machine guns, had given us a tough struggle, espe- 
cially the last strip on the north side, where the German machine- 
gun positions enfiladed every advance. Next day we cleared this 
corner and broke out of the wood, and were face to face at last 
with the main German second position. Meantime the Wood of 
Trdnes had become a Tom Tiddler's Ground, which neither antag- 
onist could fully claim or use as a base. It was at the mercy of 
the artillery fire of both sides, and it was impossible in the time 
to construct shell-proof defences. 

In the French sector the advance had been swift and con- 
tinuous. The attack, as we have seen, was a complete surprise ; 
for, half an hour before it began on 1st July, an order was issued 
to the German troops, predicting the imminent fall of Verdun, 
and announcing that a French offensive elsewhere had thereby 
been prevented. On the nine-mile front from Maricourt to Estrees 
the German first position had been carried the first day. The heavy 
guns, when they had sufficiently pounded it, ceased their fire ; then 
the " 75 's " took up the tale and plastered the front and com- 
munication trenches with shrapnel ; then a skirmishing line ad- 
vanced to report the damage done ; and finally the infantry moved 
forward to an easy occupation. It had been the German method 
at Verdun ; but it was practised by the French with far greater 
precision, and with better fighting material. 

On Monday, 3rd July, they had broken into the German second 
position south of the Somme. Twelve German battalions were 
hurried up from the Aisne, only to be destroyed. By the next 
day the Foreign Legion in the Colonial Corps had taken Belloy- 
en-Santerre, a point in the third line. On Wednesday the 35th 
Corps had the better part of Estrees, and were within three miles 
of Peronne. Counter-attacks by the German 17th Division, which 
had been brought up in support, achieved nothing, and the German 
railhead was moved from Peronne to Chaulnes. On the night of 
Sunday, 9th July, Fayolle took Biaches, a mile from Peronne, and 
the high ground called La Maisonnette, and held a front from there 
to north of Barleux — a position beyond the German third line. 
There was now nothing in front of him in this section except the 
line of the upper Somme. This was south of the river. North of 
it he had attained points in the second line, but had not yet carried 
it wholly from Hem northwards. 

The deep and broad wedge which their centre had driven towards 



174 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

Peronne gave the French positions for a flanking fire on the enemy 
ground on the left. Their artillery, even the heavies, was now far 
forward in the open, and old peasants beyond the Somme, waiting 
patiently in their captivity, heard the guns of their countrymen 
sounding daily nearer. In less than a fortnight Fayolle had, on a 
front ten miles long, with a maximum depth of six and a half 
miles, carried 50 square miles of fortifications, and captured 85 
guns, vast quantities of war material, 236 officers, and 12,000 men. 
The next step was for the British to attack the enemy second 
position before them. It ran, as we have seen, from Pozieres 
through the Bazentins and Longueval to Guillemont. On Thurs- 
day, 13th July, we were in a condition to begin the next stage of 
our advance. The capture of Contalmaison had been the indis- 
pensable preliminary, and immediately following its fall Sir Douglas 
Haig issued his first summary : " After ten days and nights of 
continuous fighting, our troops have completed the methodical 
capture of the whole of the enemy's first system of defence on a 
front of 14,000 yards. This system of defence consisted of numer- 
ous and continuous lines of fire trenches, extending to various 
depths of from 2,000 to 4,000 yards, and included five strongly 
fortified villages, numerous heavily wired and entrenched woods, 
and a large number of immensely strong redoubts. The capture 
of each of these trenches represented an operation of some impor- 
tance, and the whole of them are now in our hands." The 
summary did not err from overstatement. If the northern part 
of our front, from Thiepval to Gommecourt, had not succeeded, 
the southern part had steadily bitten its way into as strong a 
position as any area of the campaign could show. The Allies had 
already attracted against them the bulk of the available German 
reserves, and had largely destroyed them. The strength of their 
plan lay in its deliberateness and the mathematical sequence of 
its stages. 

IV. 

At dawn on Friday, the 14th, began the second stage of the 
battle. 

The most methodical action has its gambling element, its 
moments when a risk must be boldly taken. Without such hazards 
there can be no chance of surprise. The British attack of 14th 
July had much of this calculated audacity. In certain parts — as 
at Contalmaison Villa and Mametz Wood — we held positions 
within a few hundred yards of the enemy's line. But in the sec- 



i9i6] THE SECOND STAGE. 175 

tion from Bazentin-le-Grand to Longueval there was a long advance 
— in some places almost a mile — before us up the slopes north of 
Caterpillar Valley. On the extreme right the Wood of Tr6nes 
gave us a somewhat indifferent place of assembly. " The decision," 
wrote Sir Douglas Haig, " to attempt a night attack of this magni- 
tude with an army, the bulk of which had been raised since the 
beginning of the war, was perhaps the highest tribute that could 
be paid to the quality of our troops." The difficulties before the 
British attack were so great that more than one distinguished 
French officer doubted its possibility. 

The day of the attack was of fortunate omen, for the 14th of 
July was the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, the fete-day of 
France. In Paris there was such a parade as that city had not 
seen in its long history — a procession of Allied troops, Belgians, 
Russians, British infantry, and last of all, the blue-coated heroes 
of France's incomparable line. It was a shining proof to the 
world of the unit)' of the Alliance. And on the same day, while 
the Paris crowd was cheering the Scottish pipers as they swung 
down the boulevards, the British troops in Picardy were breaking 
through the German line, crying Vive la France ! in all varieties 
of accent. It was France's Day in the eyes of every soldier, the 
sacred day of that people whom in farm and village and trench 
they had come to reverence and love. 

The front chosen for attack was from a point south-east of 
Pozieres to Longueval and Delville Wood, a space of some four 
miles. Incidentally, it was necessary for our right flank to clear 
the Wood of Trones. Each village in the second line had its 
adjacent or enfolding wood — Bazentin-le-Petit, Bazentin-le-Grand, 
and at Longueval the big Wood of Delville. In the centre, a mile 
and more beyond the German position, the Wood of Foureaux, 
which we called High Wood, hung like a dark cloud on the sky line. 

The British plan was for the 3rd Corps on the left to form a 
defensive flank, pushing out patrols in the direction of Pozieres. 
On its right the 15th Corps moved against Bazentin-le-Petit Wood 
and village, and the slopes leading up to High Wood. On their 
right, again, the 13th Corps was to take Bazentin-le-Grand, to 
carry Longueval and Delville Wood, and to clear Trdnes Wood and 
form a defensive flank. In the event of a rapid success the occa- 
sion might arise for the use of cavalry, so cavalry divisions were 
put under the orders of the two corps. The preceding bombard- 
ment was to be assisted by the French heavy guns firing on Ginchy, 
Guillemont, and Leuze and Bouleaux Woods. In order to distract 



176 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

the enemy, the 8th Corps north of the Ancre attacked with gas 
and smoke, as if there was to be the main area of our effort. 

At 3.25 a.m., when the cloudy dawn had fully come, the infantry 
attacked. So complete was the surprise that in the dark the bat- 
talions which had the farthest road to go came within 200 yards of 
the enemy's wire with scarcely a casualty. When the German 
barrage came it fell behind them. The attack failed nowhere. In 
some parts it was slower than others — where the enemy's defence 
had been less comprehensively destroyed ; but by the afternoon 
all our tasks had been accomplished. To take one instance. The 
two attacking brigades of the 3rd Division were each composed 
of two battalions of the New Army and two of the old Regulars. 
The general commanding put the four new battalions into the first 
line. The experiment proved the worth of the new troops, for a 
little after midday their work was done, their part of the German 
second line was taken, and 662 un wounded men, 36 officers (in- 
cluding a battalion commander), 4 howitzers, 4 field guns, and 
14 machine guns were in their hands. The 21st Division had 
Bazentin-le-Petit Wood and village, and the 7th was far up the 
slopes towards High Wood, after taking Bazentin-le-Grand Wood ; 
the 3rd Division had Bazentin-le-Grand, and the 9th had all but 
a small part of Longueval. Trones Wood had been cleared, and a 
line was held eastward to Maltzhorn Farm. By the evening we 
had the whole second line from Bazentin-le-Petit to Longueval, a 
front of over three miles, and in the twenty-four hours' battle we 
took over 2,000 prisoners, many of them of the 3rd Division of the 
German Guard. The audacious enterprise had been crowned with 
a miraculous success. 

The great event of the day fell in the late afternoon. The 7th 
Division, pushing northward against the 10th Bavarian Division, 
penetrated the enemy's third position at High Wood, having their 
flank supported by cavalry. It was 6.15 when the advance was 
made, the first in eighteen months which had seen the use of our 
mounted men. In the Champagne battle of 25th September, the 
French had used some squadrons of General Baratier's Colonial 
Horse in the ground between the first and second German lines to 
sweep up prisoners and capture guns. This tactical expedient was 
now followed by the British, with the difference that in Champagne 
the fortified second line had not been taken, while in Picardy we 
were through the two main fortifications and operating against a 
more or less improvised position. The cavalry used were a troop 
of the 7th Dragoon Guards and a troop of the Deccan Horse. 



i 9 i6] DELVILLE WOOD. 177 

They made their way up the shallow valley beyond Bazentin-le- 
Grand, finding cover in the slope of the ground and the growing 
corn. The final advance, about 8 p.m., was made partly on foot 
and partly on horseback, and the enemy in the corn were ridden 
down, captured, or slain with lance and sabre. The cavalry then 
set to work to entrench themselves, to protect the flank of the 
advancing infantry in High Wood. It was a clean and workman- 
like job, and the news of it exhilarated the whole line. That cavalry 
should be used at all seemed to forecast the end of the long trench 
fighting and the beginning of a campaign in the open. 

On Saturday, 15th July, we were busy consolidating the ground 
won, and at some points pushing farther. Our aircraft, in spite of 
the haze, were never idle, and in twenty-four hours they destroyed 
four Fokkers, three biplanes, and a double-engined plane, without 
the loss of a single machine. On the left the 19th Division fought 
its way to the skirts of Pozieres, attacked the Leipzig Redoubt, 
south of Thiepval, and continued the struggle for Ovillers. The 
23rd Division advanced against the new switch line by which 
the Germans had connected the uncaptured portion of the second 
position with their third. The 7th Division lost most of High Wood 
under the pressure of counter-attacks by the German 7th Division, 
and next day we withdrew all troops from the place. They had 
done their work, and had formed a screen behind which we had 
consolidated our line. 

On the right, around Longueval and Delville Wood, was being 
waged the fiercest contest of all. The position there was now an 
awkward salient, for our front ran on one side westward to Pozieres, 
and on the other southward to Maltzhorn Farm. The 9th Division 
concerned had on the 14th taken the greater part of the village, 
and on the morning of the 15th its reserve brigade (the South 
African under Brigadier-General Lukin) was ordered to clear the 
wood. The struggle which began on that Saturday before dawn 
was to last for thirteen days, and to prove one of the costliest 
episodes of the whole battle. The situation was an ideal one for 
the defence. Longueval lay to the south-west of the wood, a 
straggling village with orchards at its northern end where the 
road climbed towards Flers. Delville itself was a mass of broken 
tree trunks, matted undergrowth, and shell holes. It had rides 
cut in it, running from north to south and from east to west, which 
were called by such names as " The Strand " and " Princes Street," 
and along these were the enemy trenches. The place was terribly 
at the mercy of the enemy guns, and on the north and south-east 



178 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [July 

sides the Germans had a strong trench line, some seventy yards 
from the trees, bristling with machine guns. The problem for the 
attack was far less to carry the wood than to hold it ; for as soon 
as the perimeter was reached, our men came under machine-gun 
fire, while the whole interior was incessantly bombarded. 

The South African Brigade carried the wood by noon on the 
15th, but the other brigades did not obtain the whole of Longueval, 
and the enemy, from the northern end of the village, was able 
to counter-attack and force us back. The South Africans tried 
again on the 16th, but they had no chance under the hostile fire, 
and a counter-attack of the German 8th Division forced them 
in on the central alley. Again on the 17th they endeavoured to 
clear the place, and again with heavy losses they failed. But 
they clung desperately to the south-west corner, and it was not 
until the 20th that they were relieved. For four days the heroic 
remnant, under Lieutenant-Colonel Thackeray of the 3rd Bat- 
talion, along with the Scots of the other brigades, wrestled in hand- 
to-hand fighting such as the American armies knew in the last 
Wilderness Campaign. Their assault had been splendid, but their 
defence was a greater exploit. They hung on without food or 
water, while their ranks were terribly thinned, and at the end, 
when one battalion had lost all its officers, they repulsed an attack 
by the German 5th Division, the corps d 'elite of Brandenburg. In 
this far-flung battle all parts of the empire won fame, and not 
least was the glory of the South African contingent.* 

On Sunday, 16th July, Ovillers was at last completely taken 
after a stout defence, and the way was prepared for a general 
assault on Pozieres. That day, too, on our right we widened the 
gap in the German front by the capture of Waterlot Farm, half- 
way between Longueval and Guillemont. The weather broke 
from the 16th to the 18th, and drenching rain and low mists made 
progress difficult. The enemy had got up many new batteries, 
whose positions could not be detected in such weather by our 
aircraft. He himself was better off, since we were fighting on 
ground he had once held, and he had the register of our trench 
lines and most of our possible gun positions. Our situation at 
Longueval was now an uncomfortable salient, and it was necessary 
to broaden it by pushing out towards High Wood. On the 20th, 
accordingly, the 7th Division attacked again at High Wood, and 

* Delville Wood was not wholly in our hands till the attack of 25th August. 
The story of the South Africans' stand may be read in the present writer's History 
of the South African Forces in France, 1920. 



1916] THE GERMAN SECOND POSITION. 179 

carried all of it except the north part. A trench line ran across 
that north corner, where the prospect began to open towards 
Flers and Le Sars. This position was held with extraordinary 
resolution by the enemy, and it was two months from the first 
assault before the whole wood was in our possession. 

The next step was to round off our capture of the enemy second 
position, and consolidate our ground, for it was very certain that 
the Germans would not be content to leave us in quiet possession. 
The second line being lost from east of Pozieres to Delville Wood, 
the enemy was compelled to make a switch line to connect his 
third position with an uncaptured point in his second, such as 
Pozieres. Fighting continued in the skirts of Delville, and among 
the orchards of Longueval, which had to be taken one by one. 
Apart from this general activity, our two main objectives were 
Pozieres and Guillemont. The first, with the Windmill beyond it, 
was part of the crest of the Thiepval plateau. Our aim was the 
crown of the ridge, the watershed, which would give us direct 
observation over all the rolling country to the east. The vital 
points on this watershed were Mouquet Farm, between Thiepval 
and Pozieres ; the Windmill, now only a stone pedestal, on the 
highroad east of Pozieres ; High Wood ; and the high ground 
directly east of Longueval. Guillemont was necessary to us before 
we could align our next advance with that of the French. Its 
special difficulties lay in the fact that the approach to it from 
Trones Wood lay over a perfectly bare and open piece of country ; 
that the enemy had excellent direct observation from Leuze Wood 
in its rear ; that the quarry on its western edge had been made 
into a strong redoubt ; and that the ground to the south of it 
between Maltzhorn and Falfemont Farms was broken by a three- 
pronged ravine, with Angle Wood in the centre, which the Ger- 
mans held in strength, and which made it hard to form a defensive 
flank or link up with the French advance. Sir Douglas Haig has 
summarized the position : " The line of demarcation agreed upon 
between the French commander and myself ran from Maltzhorn 
Farm due eastward to the Combles valley, and then north-eastward 
up the valley to a point midway between Sailly-Saillisel and Morval. 
These two villages had been fixed upon as the objective respectively 
of the French left and of my right. In order to advance in co- 
operation with my right, and eventually to reach Sailly-Saillisel, 
our Allies had still to fight their way up that portion of the mair 
ridge which lies between the Combles valley on the west and the 



180 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Julv 

river Tortille on the east. To do so, they had to capture in the 
first place the strongly-fortified villages of Maurepas, Le Forest, 
Rancourt, and Fregicourt, besides many woods and strong systems 
of trenches. As the high ground on each side of the Combles 
valley commands the slopes of the ridge on the opposite side it 
was essential that the advance of the two armies should be simul- 
taneous and made in the closest co-operation." 

The weather did not favour us. The third week of July was rain 
and fog. The last week of that month and the first fortnight of 
August saw blazing summer weather, which in that arid and dusty 
land told severely on men wearing heavy steel helmets and carrying 
a load of equipment. There was little wind, and a heat-haze lay 
low on the uplands. This meant poor visibility at a time when air 
reconnaissance was most vital. Hence the task of counter-bom- 
bardment grew very difficult, and the steps in our progress became 
for the moment slow and irregular. A battle which advances 
without a hitch exists only in a staff college kriegspiel, and the wise 
general, in preparing his plans, makes ample allowance for delays. 

On 19th July there came the first attempt on Guillemont from 
Tr6nes Wood, an attack by the 18th Division which failed to 
advance. On the 20th the French made good progress, pushing 
their front east of Hardecourt beyond the Combles-Clery light 
railway, and south of the Somme widening the gap by carrying 
the German defence system from Barleux to Vermandovillers. 
For the two days following our guns bombarded the whole enemy 
front, and on the Sunday, 23rd July, came the next great infantry 
attack. That attack had a wide front, but its main fury was 
on the left, where Pozieres and its Windmill crowned the slope 
up which ran the Albert-Bapaume road. The village had long 
ere this been pounded flat, the Windmill was a stump, and the 
trees in the gardens matchwood, but every yard of those devas- 
tated acres was fortified in the German fashion with covered 
trenches, deep dug-outs, and machine-gun emplacements. 

The assault was delivered from two sides — the 48th Division 
(South Midland Territorials) moving from the south-west in the 
ground between Pozieres and Ovillers, and the 1st Australian 
Division from the south-east, advancing from the direction of 
Contalmaison Villa. The movement began about midnight, and 
the Midlanders speedily cleared out the defences which the Germans 
had flung out south of the village to the left of the highroad, and 
held a line along the outskirts of the place in the direction of Thiep- 
val. The Australians had a difficult task ; for they had first to take 



1916] THE AUSTRALIANS AT POZIERES. 181 

a sunken road parallel with the highway, then a formidable line of 
trenches, and finally the high road itself which ran straight through 
the middle of the village. The Australian troops then and after- 
wards were second to none in the new British Army. In the 
famous landing at Gallipoli and in a dozen desperate fights in that 
peninsula, culminating in the great battle which began on August 
6, 1915, they had shown themselves incomparable in the fury of 
assault and in reckless personal valour. In the grim struggle now 
beginning they had to face a far heavier fire and far more formidable 
defences than anything that Gallipoli could show. For their task 
not gallantry only but perfect battle discipline and perfect coolness 
were needed. The splendid troops were equal to the call. They 
won the highroad after desperate fighting in the ruined houses, 
and established a line where the breadth of the road alone separated 
them from the enemy. A famous division of British regulars on 
this flank sent them a message to say that they were proud to 
fight by their side. 

On Monday and Tuesday the battle continued, and by the 
evening of the latter day most of Pozieres was in our hands. By 
Wednesday morning, 26th July, the whole village was ours, and 
the Midlanders on the left were pushing northward and had taken 
two lines of trenches. The two divisions joined hands at the 
north corner, where they occupied the cemetery, and held a portion 
of the switch line. Here they lived under a perpetual enemy 
bombardment. The Germans still held the Windmill, which was 
the higher ground and gave them a good observation point. The 
sight of that ridge from the road east of Ovillers was one that no 
man who saw it was likely to forget. It seemed to be smothered 
monotonously in smoke and fire, while wafts of the thick heliotrope 
smell of the lachrymatory shells floated down from it. Out of the 
dust and glare would come Australian units which had been relieved, 
long, lean men with the shadows of a great fatigue around their 
deep-set, far-sighted eyes. They were perfectly cheerful and com- 
posed, and no Lowland Scot was ever less inclined to expansive 
speech. At the most they would admit in their slow, quiet voices 
that what they had been through had been " some battle." 

Meantime there had been heavy fighting around Longueval 
and in Delville Wood.* On Thursday, the 27th, the wood was 
cleared all but its eastern side, and next day the last enemy out- 

• The German troops employed in the defence of Longueval and Delville Wood 
since 14th July were successively the 6th Regiment of the ioth Bavarian Division, 
the 8th Division of the 4th Corps, and the 5th Division of the 3rd Corps. 



182 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug, 

post in Longueval village was captured by the 3rd Division. 
At the same time the 51st Division (Highland Territorials) was 
almost continuously engaged at High Wood, where in one week it 
made three fruitless attempts to drive the enemy out of the northern 
segment. On 23rd July we attacked Guillemont from the south 
and west, but failed, owing to the strength of the enemy's machine- 
gun fire. Early on the morning of Sunday, the 30th, the Aus- 
tralians attacked at Pozieres towards the Windmill, and after a 
fierce hand-to-hand struggle in the darkness, advanced their front 
to the edge of the trench labyrinth which constituted that position. 
Next morning we attacked Guillemont from the north-west and 
west, while the French pushed almost to the edge of Maurepas. 
Troops of the 30th Division advanced right through Guillemont, 
till the failure of the attack on the left compelled them to retire, 
with heavy losses. Our farthest limit was the station on the light 
railway just outside Guillemont village. 

Little happened for some days. The heat was now very great, 
so great that even men inured to an Australian summer found it 
hard to bear, and the maddening haze still muffled the landscape. 
We were aware that the enemy had strengthened his position, 
and brought up new troops and batteries. The French were 
meantime fighting their way through the remnants of the German 
second line north of the Somme between Hem Wood and Monacu 
Farm. There were strong counter-attacks against Delville Wood, 
which were beaten off by our guns before they got to close range. 
Daily we bombarded points in the enemy hinterland, and did much 
destruction among their depots and billets and heavy batteries. 
And then on the night of Friday, 4th August, came the final attack 
at Pozieres. 

We had already won the German second position up to the top 
of the village, where the new switch line joined on. The attack 
was in the nature of a surprise. It began at nine in the evening, 
when the light was still strong. The 2nd Australian Division 
advanced on the right at the Windmill, and the 12th Division on 
the left. The trenches, which had been almost obliterated by our 
guns, were carried at a rush, and before the darkness came we had 
taken the rest of the second position on a front of 2,000 yards. 
Counter-attacks followed all through the night, but they were 
badly co-ordinated, and achieved nothing. On Saturday we had 
pushed our line north and west of the village from 400 to 600 
yards on a front of 3,000. Early on Sunday morning the Germans 
counter-attacked with liquid fire, and gained a small portion of 



i 9 i6] THE GERMAN RESISTANCE WEAKENS. 183 

the trench line, which was speedily recovered. The position was 
now that we held the much-contested Windmill, and that we ex- 
tended on the east of the village to the west end of the switch, 
while west of Pozieres we had pushed so far north that the German 
line was drooping like the eaves of a steep roof. We had taken 
some 600 prisoners, and at last we were looking over the watershed. 

The following week saw repeated attempts by the enemy to 
recover his losses. The German bombardment was incessant and 
intense, and on the high bare scarp around the Windmill our troops 
had to make heavy drafts on their fortitude. On Tuesday, 8th 
August, the British right, attacking at 4.20 a.m. in conjunction 
with the French, closed farther in on Guillemont. At Pozieres, 
too, every day our lines advanced, especially in the angle toward 
Mouquet Farm, between the village and Thiepval. We were 
exposed to a flanking fire from Thiepval, and to the exactly ranged 
heavy batteries around Courcelette and Grandcourt. Our task 
was to break off and take heavy toll of the many German counter- 
attacks, and on the rebound to win, yard by yard, ground which 
made our position secure. 

In the desperate strain of this fighting there was evidence that 
the superb German machine was beginning to creak and falter. 
Hitherto its strength had lain in the automatic precision of its 
ordering. Now, since reserves had to be hastily collected from all 
quarters, there was some fumbling in the command. Attacks made 
by half a dozen battalions collected from three divisions, battalions 
which had never before been brigaded together, were bound to 
lack the old vigour and cohesion. Units lost direction, staff work 
was imperfect, and what should have been a hammer-blow became 
a loose scrimmage. It was the fashion in Germany at this time 
to compare the Somme offensive of the Allies with the German 
attack on Verdun, very much to the advantage of the latter. The 
deduction was false. In every military aspect — in the extent of 
ground won, in the respective losses, in the accuracy and weight of 
artillery, in the quality of the infantry attacks, and in the precision 
of the generalship — the Verdun attack fell far short of the Picardy 
battle. The Verdun front, in its operative part, had been narrower 
than that of the Somme, but at least ten more enemy divisions 
had by the beginning of August been attracted to Picardy than had 
appeared between Avocourt and Vaux up to the end of April. 
The Crown Prince at Verdun speedily lost the initiative in any 
serious sense ; on the Somme, Below and Gallwitz never possessed 
it. There the enemy had to accept battle as the Allied will imposed 



184 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug. 

it, and no counter-attack could for a moment divert the Allied 
purpose. 

The French, by the second week of August, had carried all 
the German third position south of the Somme. On Saturday, 
12th August, after preparatory reconnaissances, they attacked the 
third line north of the river from the east of Hardecourt to opposite 
Buscourt. It was a well-organized assault, which on a front of 
over four miles swept away the enemy trenches and redoubts to 
an average depth of three-quarters of a mile. They took the 
cemetery of Maurepas and the southern slopes of Hill 109 on the 
Maurepas-Clery road, and reached the saddle west of Clery village. 
By the evening over 1,000 prisoners were in their hands. Four 
days later, on Wednesday, 16th August, they pushed their left 
flank — that adjoining the British — north of Maurepas, taking a 
mile of trenches, and south of that village captured all the enemy 
line on a front of a mile and a quarter. Except for a few incon- 
siderable sections the enemy third position opposite the French 
had gone. 

The British to the north were not yet ready for their grand as- 
sault. They had the more difficult ground and the stronger enemy 
forces against them, and for six weeks had been steadily fighting 
uphill. At points they had reached the watershed, but they had 
not won enough of the high ground to give them positions against 
the German third line on the reverse slopes. The following week 
was therefore a tale of slow progress to the rim of the plateau, 
around Pozieres, High Wood, and Guillemont. Each day saw 
something gained by hard fighting. On Sunday, the 13th, it was 
a section of trench north-west of Pozieres, and another between 
Bazentin-le-Petit and Martinpuich. On Tuesday it was ground 
close to Mouquet Farm. On Wednesday it was the west and south- 
west environs of Guillemont and a 300-yards advance at High Wood. 
On Thursday there was progress north-west of Bazentin-le-Petit 
towards Martinpuich, and between Ginchy and Guillemont. 

On Friday, 18th August, came the next combined attack. 
There was a steady pressure everywhere from Thiepval to the 
Somme. The main advance took place at 2.45 in the afternoon, 
in fantastic weather, with bursts of hot sunshine followed by 
thunderstorms and flights of rainbows. On the left of the front 
the attack was timed for 8 a.m. South of Thiepval, in the old 
German first line, was a strong work, the Leipzig Redoubt, into 
which we had already bitten. It was such a stronghold as we had 



1916] THE WATERSHED REACHED. 185 

seen at Beaumont Hamel, a nest of deep dug-outs and subterranean 
galleries, well stocked with machine guns. As our front moved 
east to Pozieres and Contalmaison we had neglected this corner, 
which had gradually become the apex of a sharp salient. It was 
garrisoned by Prussians of the 29th Regiment, who were confident 
in the impregnability of their refuge. They led an easy life, while 
their confederates on the crest were crowding in improvised trenches 
under our shelling. Those not on duty slept peacefully in their 
bunks at night, and played cards in the deep shelters. On Friday, 
after a sharp and sudden artillery preparation, two British bat- 
talions rushed the redoubt. We had learned by this time how to 
deal with the German machine guns. Many of the garrison fought 
stubbornly to the end ; others we smoked out and rounded up 
like the occupants of a gambling-house surprised by the police. 
Six officers and 170 men surrendered in a body. In all, some 
2,000 Germans were caught in this trap by numbers less than 
their own. There was no chance of a counter-stroke, for we got 
our machine guns in position at once, and our artillery caught 
every enemy attempt in the open. 

Elsewhere on the front the fighting was harder and less success- 
ful. In the centre the 15th Division pushed closer to Martinpuich, 
and from High Wood southward we slightly advanced our lines. 
We also carried the last orchard at Longueval, and pressed towards 
the eastern rim of Delville Wood. Farther south we took the stone 
quarry on the edge of Guillemont after a hand-to-hand struggle 
of several hours, but failed to hold it. Meantime the French car- 
ried the greater part of Maurepas village, and the place called 
Calvary Hill to the south-east. This last was a great feat of arms, 
for they had against them a fresh division of the Prussian Guard 
(the 2nd), which had seen no serious action for many months.* 

We were now fighting on the watershed. At Thiepval we held 
the ridge that overlooked the village from the south-east. We 
held all the high ground north of Pozieres, which gave us a clear 
view of the country towards Bapaume, and our lines lay 300 yards 
beyond the Windmill. We had all the west side of High Wood 
and the ground between it and the Albert-Bapaume road. We 
were half-way between Longueval and Ginchy, and our pincers 
were encircling Guillemont. At last we were in position over 
against, and in direct view of, the German third line. 

The next week was occupied in repelling German attempts to 

* The whole of the ist Guard Corps — the 1st and 2nd Divisions — was now 
facing the French north of the Somme. 



186 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

recover lost ground, and in efforts to sharpen still further the Thiep- 
val salient and to capture Guillemont. Thiepval, it should be 
remembered, was a point in the old German first line on the left 
flank of the great breach, and Guillemont was the one big position 
still untaken in the German second line. On Sunday, the 20th, 
the Germans shelled our front heavily, and at about noon attacked 
our new lines on the western side of High Wood. They reached 
a portion of our trenches, but were immediately driven out by our 
infantry. Next day, at High Wood and at Mouquet Farm, there 
were frequent bombing attacks which came to nothing. On 
Tuesday, 22nd August, we advanced steadily on our left, pushing 
our line to the very edge of what was once Mouquet Farm as well 
as to the north-east of it, and closing in to within 1,000 yards of 
Thiepval. On Wednesday night and Thursday morning a very 
severe counter-attack on our position at Guillemont, pressed with 
great determination, failed to win any ground. That afternoon, 
24th August, we advanced nearer Thiepval, coming, at one point, 
within 500 yards of the place. In the evening, at five o'clock, the 
French carried Maurepas, and pushed their right on to the Combles 
railway, while the British 14th Division succeeded at last in clearing 
Delville Wood. Next day the French success enabled us to join 
up with our Allies south-east of Guillemont, where our pincers 
were now beginning to grip hard. 

The following week was one of slow and steady progress, the 
most satisfactory feature of which was the frequency of the 
German counter-attacks and their failure. On 26th August, for 
example, troops of the 4th Division of the Prussian Guard, after 
a heavy bombardment, attacked south of Thiepval village, and 
were completely repulsed by the battalions holding that front. 
On Thursday evening, 31st August, five violent and futile assaults 
were made on our front between High Wood and Ginchy. It 
looked as if the enemy was trying in vain to anticipate the next 
great stage of our offensive which was now imminent. 

On Sunday, 3rd September, at twelve noon, the whole Allied 
front pressed forward. The 4th Australian and the 25th and 
49th British divisions attacked on the extreme left — near Mouquet 
Farm and towards Thiepval, and against the enemy position just 
north of the Ancre. In their task they encountered the 1st Guard 
Reserve Division, and took several hundred prisoners. They car- 
ried various strong positions, won ground east of Mouquet Farm, 
and still further narrowed the Thiepval salient. Our centre took 
High Wood in the afternoon, but pressed on too far, and had to 



igi6] MICHELER ATTACKS. 187 

give ground before a German counter-attack. On their right the 
7th Division took and lost Ginchy, while the 20th Division swept 
through Guillemont to the sunken road, 500 yards to the east. 
The fall of Guillemont meant that we now held the last point in the 
old German second position between Mouquet Farm and the junc- 
tion with the French. It had been most gallantly defended by 
the enemy for twenty-five days without relief.* Farther south 
we attacked but failed to capture Falfemont Farm. Meantime 
the French — the 1st Corps — had marched steadily from victory 
to victory. Shortly after noon, on a 3I miles front between 
Maurepas and the Somme, they had attacked after an intense 
artillery preparation. They carried the villages of Le Forest and 
Clery, and north of the former place won the German lines to the 
outskirts of Combles. 

The advance was only beginning. On Monday, 4th September, 
all enemy counter-attacks were beaten off, and further ground won 
by the British near Falfemont Farm. That night, in a torrent of 
rain, our men pressed on, and before midday on Tuesday, 5th 
September, they were nearly a mile east of Guillemont, and well 
into Leuze Wood. That evening the whole of the wood was taken, 
as well as the hotly disputed Falfemont Farm, and the British were 
less than 1,000 yards from the town of Combles, on which the 
French were pressing in on the south. 

Meantime, about two in the afternoon, a new French army came 
into action south of the Somme on a front of a dozen miles from 
Barleux to south of Chaulnes. This was General Micheler's Tenth 
Army, with nine divisions in line, which had been waiting for two 
months on the order to advance. At a bound it carried the whole 
of the German first position from Vermandovillers to Chilly, a 
front of nearly three miles, and took some 3,000 un wounded pris- 
oners. Next day the French pressed on both north and south of 
the river, and in the former area reached the west end of the Anderlu 
Wood, carried the Hopital Farm, the Rainette Wood, part of the 
ridge on which ran the road from Bouchavesnes to Clery, and the 
village of Omiecourt. 

From Wednesday, 6th September, to the night of Friday, the 
8th, the Germans strove in vain to win back what they had lost. 
On the whole thirty miles from Thiepval to Chilly there were 
violent counter-attacks which had no success, though four divi- 
sions of the Prussian Guard shared in them. The Allied artillery 

* By the German 27th Division. Its commander, Otto von Moser, received the 
Order of Merit. 



188 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

broke up the massed infantry in most cases long before they reached 
our trenches. On Saturday, gth September, the 16th (Irish) 
Division carried Ginchy. The attack was delivered at 4.45 in the 
afternoon, on a broad front, but, though highly successful in this 
one area, it failed elsewhere. We made no progress in High Wood, 
we were checked east of Delville, and, most important of all, we 
did not succeed in carrying the work east of Ginchy called the 
Quadrilateral, which at a later day was to prove a thorn in 
our side. 

Nevertheless the main objects had been attained. The Allied 
front was now in a symmetrical line, and everywhere on the highest 
ground. Combles was held in a tight clutch, and the French 
Tenth Army was within 800 yards of Chaulnes Station, and was 
holding 2 1 miles of the Chaulnes-Roye railway, thereby cutting 
the chief German line of lateral communication. The first ob- 
jective which the Allies had set before themselves on 1st July had 
been won. By the 10th of September the British had made good 
the old German second position, and had won the crest of the 
uplands, while the French in their section had advanced almost 
to the gates of Peronne, and their new army on the right had begun 
to widen the breach. That moment was in a very real sense the 
end of a phase, the first and perhaps the most critical phase of the 
Somme battle. The immense fortifications of her main position 
represented for Germany the accumulated capital of two years. 
She had raised these defences when she was stronger than her 
adversaries in guns and in men. Now she was weaker, and her 
capital was gone. Thenceforth the campaign entered upon a new 
stage, new alike in strategical and tactical problems. From 
Thiepval to Chaulnes the enemy was in improvised positions. 
The day of manoeuvre battles had not come, but in that section 
the rigidity of the old trench warfare had vanished. Haig's aim 
was to push eastward till he secured a good defensive position, 
and then turn north against the flank and rear of the German 
positions beyond the Ancre. It looked as if he were soon to attain 
the first half of his purpose. 



CHAPTER LXIII. 

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME (continued). 
September g-November 18, 1916. 

The Attack of 15th September — Raymond Asquith — The Attack of 25th September 
—The Weather breaks — The October Fighting — The French reach Sailly- 
Saillisel — The Battle of the Ancre — Summary of whole Action — Ludendorff's 
Admissions. 

The capture of Guillemont on 3rd September meant the end of the 
German second position on the whole front between Thiepval and 
Estrees. The Allies were faced with a new problem, to understand 
which it is necessary to consider the nature of the defences still 
before them and the peculiar configuration of the country. 

The advance of 1st July had carried the first enemy lines on 
a broad front, but the failure of the attack between Gommecourt 
and Thiepval had made the breach eight miles less than the original 
plan. The advance of 14th July gave us the second line on a still 
narrower front — from Bazentin-le-Petit to Longueval. The danger 
now was that the Allied thrust, if continued, might show a rapidly 
narrowing wedge which would result in the formation of a sharp 
and precarious salient. Accordingly, Sir Douglas Haig broadened 
the breach by striking out to left and right, capturing first Pozieres 
and the high ground at Mouquet Farm, and then — on his other 
flank — Guillemont and Ginchy. These successes made the gap 
in the second position some seven miles wide, and brought the 
British front in most places to the highest ground, from which 
direct observation was obtainable over the lower slopes and valley 
pockets to the east. We did not yet hold the complete crown of 
the ridge, though at Mouquet Farm and at High Wood we had 
positions which no superior height commanded. 

The German third position had at the beginning of the battle 
been only in embryo. Before the attack of 14th July it had been 
more or less completed, and by the beginning of September it had 

189 



igo A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

been greatly elaborated and a fourth position prepared behind it. 
It was based on a string of fortified villages which lay on the reverse 
slopes of the main ridge — Courcelette, Martinpuich, Flers, Les- 
bceufs, and Morval. Behind it was an intermediate line, with Le 
Sars, Eaucourt l'Abbaye, and Gueudecourt as strong positions in 
it ; and farther back a fourth position, which lay just west of the 
Bapaume-Peronne road, covering the villages of Sailly-Saillisel and 
Le Transloy. This was the line protecting Bapaume ; the next 
position, at this moment only roughly sketched out, lay well to 
the east of that town. 

Since the battle began the Germans had, up to the second week 
in September, brought sixty-one divisions into action in the Somme 
area ; seven had been refitted and sent in again ; on 14th Sep- 
tember they were holding the line with fifteen divisions — which 
gives fifty-three as the number which had been used up. The 
German losses throughout had been high. The French casualties 
had been comparatively light — for they had fought economically 
under close cover of their guns, and had had, on the whole, the easier 
tactical problem to face. The British losses had been, beyond 
doubt, lower than those of the enemy, and our most conspicuous 
successes, such as the advance of 1st July south of Thiepval and 
the action of 14th July, had been achieved at a comparatively 
small cost. Our main casualties arose from the failure north of 
Thiepval on the first day, and the taking of desperately defended 
and almost impregnable positions like Delville Wood and Guiile- 
mont. 

In the ten weeks' battle the enemy had shown many ups and 
downs of strength. At one moment his whole front would appear 
to be crumbling ; at another the arrival of fresh batteries from 
Verdun and new troops would solidify his line. The effort had 
strained his capacity to its full. On 5th September Hindenburg 
and Ludendorff paid their first visit to the West, and the narrative 
of the latter witnesses to their grave view of the case.* They 
found that the German infantry, relying too much upon fortifications 
and artillery, were losing their power of taking the offensive. They 
resolutely faced the crisis, drastically revised the tactical methods, 
and reorganized the whole Western front. Early in the battle 
the old I. Army — which had been in abeyance since the preceding 
spring — was revived north of the Somme and placed under Fritz 
von Below, while the II. Army, now under Gallwitz, held the line 
south of the river. An army group was created, under Prince 

* See Ludendorfi's My War Memories, I., p. 265, etc 



1916] THE NEW BRITISH OBJECTIVE. 191 

Rupprecht of Bavaria, comprising his own VI. Army, the I. and 
II. Armies, and the hitherto ungrouped VII. Army of Schubert. 
Strenuous efforts were made to create a reserve, for Germany in 
her defence had already used the best fighting material she pos- 
sessed. During those ten weeks almost all her most famous units 
had appeared on the Somme— the cream of the Bavarian troops, 
the 5th Brandenburgers, and every single division of the Guard 
and Guard Reserve Corps. 

In the early days of September the Allied Command had 
evidence that the enemy was in no very happy condition. The 
loss of Ginchy and Guillemont had enabled the British to come 
into line with the left wing of Fayolle's great advance, while the 
fall of certain vital positions on the Thiepval Ridge gave us ob- 
servation over a great space of country and threatened Thiepval, 
which was the pivot of all the German defence in the northern 
section of the battle-ground. The Allied front north of the Somme 
had the river as a defensive flank on its right, and might presently 
have the Ancre to fill the same part on its left. Hence the situation 
was ripe for a further thrust which, if successful, might give our 
advance a new orientation. If the German third line could be 
carried, it might be possible to strike out on the flanks, repeating 
on a far greater scale the practice already followed. Bapaume 
itself was not the objective, but a thrust north-eastward across the 
upp^r Ancre, to get behind the great slab of unbroken enemy 
positions from Thiepval northwards. That would be the ultimate 
reward of a complete success ; in the meantime our task was to 
break through the enemy's third line and test his powers of re- 
sistance. 

It seemed a propitious moment for a concerted blow. The 
situation on the whole front was good. Fayolle's left wing had won 
conspicuous successes and had its spirits high, while Micheler 
was moving his pincers towards Chaulnes and playing havoc with 
the main German lateral communications. Elsewhere in Europe 
things went well for the Allies. On 28th August Rumania had 
entered the war, and her troops were pouring into Transylvania. 
As it turned out, it was a premature and fruitless movement, but 
it compelled Germany to take instant steps to meet the menace. 
There had been important changes in the German High Command, 
and it might reasonably be assumed that Hindenburg and Luden- 
dorff were not yet quite at ease in the saddle. Brussilov was still 
pinning down the Austro-German forces on the Russian front, and 
Sarrail had just begun his offensive in the Balkans. In the event 



192 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

of a real debacle in the West the enemy might be hard pressed 
to find the men to fill the breach. Every action, it should be re- 
membered, is a packet of surprises. There is an immediate local 
objective, but on success any one of twenty consequences may 
follow. The wise commander cannot count on any of these 
consequences, but he must not neglect them in his calculations. 
If the gods send him good fortune he must be ready to take it, and 
he naturally chooses a season when the gods seem propitious. 



I. 

On Tuesday, 12th September, a comprehensive bombardment 
began all along the British front from Thiepval to Ginchy. The 
whole of Rawlinson's Fourth Army was destined for the action, 
as well as the right corps — the 1st Canadian — of the Fifth Army, 
while on the left of the battle to the nth Division was allotted a 
preliminary attack, which was partly in the nature of a feint and 
partly a necessary preparatory step. The immediate objective 
of the different units must be clearly noted. On the left of the 
main front the 2nd Canadian Division was directed against Cour- 
celette. On their right the 15th (Scottish) Division had for its 
task to clear the remains of the old Switch line and encircle Martin- 
puich, but not — on the first day at any rate — to attempt the capture 
of what was believed to be a most formidable stronghold. Going 
south, the 50th and 47th Divisions had to clear High Wood. On 
their right the New Zealanders had Flers as their objective, while 
the 41st and 14th Divisions had to make good the ground east 
and north of Delville Wood. Next to them the Guards and the 
6th Division were to move north-east from Ginchy against Les- 
bceufs and Morval, while on the extreme right of the British front 
the 56th Division was to carry Bouleaux Wood and form a defen- 
sive flank. It had been agreed between Haig and Foch that 
Combles should not be directly attacked, but pinched by an advance 
on both sides of it. This movement was no easy task, for, 
in Haig's words, " the line of the French advance was narrowed 
almost to a defile by the extensive and strongly fortified wood of 
St. Pierre Vaast on the one side, and on the other by the Combles 
valley." The closest co-operation was necessary to enable the 
two commands to solve a highly intricate tactical problem. 

The British force to be employed in the new advance was for 
the most part fresh. The Guards had not been in action since Loos 
the previous September, the Canadians were new to the Somme 



i 9 i6] THE TANKS. 193 

area, while it was the first experience of the New Zealanders 
on the Western front. In this stage, too, a new weapon was 
to be used. The " tanks," officially known as " Machine Gun 
Corps, Heavy Section," had come out from home some time 
before, and had been parked in secluded spots at the back of the 
front. The world is now familiar with those strange machines, 
which, shaped like monstrous toads, crawled imperturbably over 
wire and parapets, butted down houses, shouldered trees aside, 
and humped themselves over the stoutest walls. They were 
an experiment which could only be proved in practice, and the 
design in using them at this stage was principally to find out 
their weak points, so as to perfect their mechanism for the future. 
Their main tactical purpose was to clear out redoubts and nests 
of machine guns which, as we had found to our sorrow at Loos, 
might hang up the most resolute troops. For this object they 
must precede the infantry attack, and the task of assembling them 
before the parapets were crossed was fraught with difficulty, for 
they were neither silent nor inconspicuous. The things had been 
kept a profound secret, and until the very eve of the advance few 
in the British army had even heard of them. On 14th September, 
the day before our attack, some of them were seen by German 
airplanes, and the German troops were warned that the British 
had some strange new engine. Rumours also seem to have reached 
Germany five or six weeks earlier, for orders had been issued to 
supply the soldiers with a special kind of armour-piercing bullet. 
But of the real nature of the device the enemy had no inkling. 

On the night of Thursday, the 14th, the Fifth Army carried 
out its preliminary task. On a front of a thousand yards south- 
east of Thiepval the nth Division stormed the Hohenzollern 
trench and the strong redoubt which the Germans called the 
" Wunderwerk," taking many prisoners and themselves losing 
little. The fame of this enterprise has been somewhat obscured 
by the great advance which followed, but it was a most workmanlike 
and skilful performance, and it had a real effect on the subsequent 
battle. It deceived the enemy as to the exact terrain of the main 
assault, and it caused him to launch a counter-attack in an area 
which was part of the principal battle-ground, with the result that 
our left wing, after checking his attack, was able to catch him on 
the rebound. 

The morning of Friday, 15th September, was perfect autumn 
weather, with a light mist filling the hollows and shrouding the 
slopes. At 6 a.m. the British bombardment, which had now lasted 



194 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

for three days, rose to the fury of hurricane fire. The enemy had 
a thousand guns of all calibres massed against us, and his defences 
consisted of a triple line of entrenchments and a series of advanced 
posts manned by machine guns. Our earlier bombardment had 
cut his wire and destroyed many of his trenches, besides hampering 
greatly his bringing up of men, rations, and shells. The final 
twenty minutes of intense fire, slowly creeping forward with our 
infantry close under its shadow, pinned him to his positions and 
interfered with his counter-barrage. At twenty minutes past six 
our men crossed the parapets and moved forward methodically 
towards the enemy. The Germans, manning their trenches as 
our guns lengthened, saw through the thin mist inhuman shapes 
crawling towards them, things like gigantic slugs, spitting fire 
from their mottled sides. They had been warned of a new weapon, 
but what mortal weapon was this terror that walked by day ? 
And ere they could collect their dazed wits the British bayonets 
were upon them. 

On the left and centre the attack was instantly successful. 
The Canadians, after beating off the German counter-attack, 
carried Courcelette in the afternoon. In this advance French- 
Canadian troops played a distinguished part in winning back some 
miles of French soil for their ancient motherland. On their right 
the 15th Division, which had already been six weeks in line, per- 
formed something more than the task allotted it. The capture 
of Martinpuich was not part of the programme of the day's opera- 
tions, but the Scots pushed east and west of the village, and at 
a quarter-past five in the evening had the place in their hands. 
Farther south there was fierce fighting in the old cockpit of High 
Wood. It was two months since we had first effected an entrance 
into its ill-omened shades, but we had been forced back, and for 
long had to be content with its southern corner. The strong German 
third line — which ran across its northern half on the very crest of 
the ridge — and the endless craters and machine-gun redoubts made 
it a desperate nut to crack. We had pushed out horns to east and 
west of it, but the northern stronghold in the wood itself had defied 
all our efforts. It was held on that day by troops of the 2nd Bav- 
arian Corps, and the German ranks have shown no better fighting 
stuff. Our first attack failed, but on a second attempt the 47th 
Division, a little after noon, swept the place clear, though not 
without heavy losses. Beyond them the New Zealanders, with 
the 41st Division on their right, carried the switch line and took 
Flers with little trouble. They were preceded by a tank, which 



1916] BATTLE OF 15th SEPTEMBER. 195 

waddled complacently up the main street of the village, with the 
enemy's bullets rattling harmlessly off its sides, followed by cheer- 
ing and laughing British troops. Farther south we advanced our 
front for nearly a mile and a half. The 14th Division, debouching 
from Delville Wood, cleared Mystery Corner on its eastern side 
before the general attack began, and then pushed forward north 
of Ginchy in the direction of Lesbceufs. 

Only on the right wing was the tale of success incomplete. 
Ginchy, it will be remembered, had been carried on gth September, 
but its environs were not yet fully cleared, and the enemy held 
the formidable point known as the Quadrilateral. This was 
situated about 700 yards east of Ginchy, at a bend of the Morval 
road, where it passed through a deep wooded ravine. The 6th 
Division was directed against it, with the Guards on its left and the 
56th Division on its right. The business of the last-named was 
to carry Bouleaux Wood and form a defensive flank north of 
Combles, while the Guards were to advance from Ginchy on Les- 
bceufs. But the strength of the Quadrilateral foiled the plan. 
The Londoners did indeed enter Bouleaux Wood, but the 6th Divi- 
sion on their left was fatally hung up in front of the Quadrilateral, 
and this in turn exposed the right flank of the Guards. The brigades 
of the latter advanced, as they have always advanced, with perfect 
discipline and courage. But both their flanks were enfiladed ; 
the fron of attack was too narrow ; the sunken road before them 
was strongly held by machine guns ; they somewhat lost direction ; 
and, in consequence, no part of our right attack gained its full 
objective. There, and in High Wood, we incurred most of the 
casualties of the day. The check was the more regrettable since 
complete success in this area was tactically more important than 
elsewhere. 

But after all deductions were made the day's results were in a 
high degree satisfactory. We had broken in one day through three 
of the enemy's main defensive systems, and on a front of over six 
miles had advanced to an average depth of a mile. It was the 
most effective blow yet dealt at the enemy by British troops. 
It gave us not only the high ground between Thiepval and the 
Combles valley, but placed us well down the forward slopes. " The 
damage to the enemy's moral," said the official summary, " is prob- 
ably of greater consequence than the seizure of dominating positions 
and the capture of between four and five thousand prisoners." 
Three famous Bavarian divisions had been engaged and com- 
pletely shattered, and the whole enemy front thrown into disorder. 



196 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

The tanks had, for a new experiment, done wonders. Some 
of them broke down on the way up, and, of the thirty-two which 
reached their starting-points, fourteen came to grief early in the 
day. The remainder did brilliant service, some squatting on enemy 
trenches and clearing them by machine-gun fire, some flattening 
out uncut wire, others destroying machine-gun nests and redoubts 
or strong points like the sugar factory at Courcelette. But their 
moral effect was greater than the material damage they wrought. 
The sight of those deliberate impersonal engines ruthlessly grinding 
down the most cherished defences put something like panic into 
troops who had always prided themselves upon the superior merit 
of their own fighting " machine." Beyond doubt, too, the pres- 
ence of the tanks added greatly to the zeal and confidence of our 
assaulting infantry. An element of sheer comedy was introduced 
into the grim business of war, and comedy is dear to the heart of 
the British soldier. The crews of the tanks seemed to have ac- 
quired some of the light-heartedness of the British sailor. Penned 
up in a narrow stuffy space, condemned to a form of motion com- 
pared with which that of the queasiest vessel was steady, and at 
the mercy of unknown perils, these adventurers faced their task 
with the zest of a boy on holiday. 

In the achievements of the day our aircraft nobly co-operated. 
They destroyed thirteen hostile machines and drove nine more in 
a broken condition to ground. They bombarded enemy head- 
quarters and vital points on all his railway lines. They destroyed 
German kite balloons, and so put out the eyes of the defence. 
They guided our artillery fire, and they brought back frequent 
and accurate reports of every stage in the infantry advance. 
Moreover, they attacked both enemy artillery and infantry with 
their machine-gun fire from a low elevation. In the week of the 
action on the whole Somme battle-ground only fourteen enemy 
machines managed to cross our lines, while our airplanes made 
between two thousand and three thousand flights far behind the 
German front. 

In the Guards' advance, among other gallant and distinguished 
officers, there fell one whose death was, in a peculiar sense, a loss 
to his country and the future. Lieutenant Raymond Asquith, 
of the Grenadier Guards, the eldest son of the British Prime Min- 
ister, died while leading his men through the fatal enfilading fire 
from the corner of Ginchy village. In this war the gods took toll 
of every rank and class. Few generals and statesmen in the Allied 
nations but had to mourn intimate bereavements, and Castelnau 



1916] RAYMOND ASQUITH. 197 

had given three sons for his country. But the death of Raymond 
Asquith had a poignancy apart from his birth and position, and 
it may be permitted to an old friend to pay his tribute to a heroic 
memory. 

A scholar of the ripe Elizabethan type, a brilliant wit, an ac- 
complished poet, a sound lawyer — these things were borne lightly, 
for his greatness was not in his attainments but in himself. He 
had always borne a curious aloofness towards mere worldly success. 
He loved the things of the mind for their own sake — good books, 
good talk, the company of friends — and the rewards of common 
ambition seemed to him too trivial for a man's care. He was of 
the spending type in life, giving freely of the riches of his nature, 
but asking nothing in return. His carelessness of personal gain, 
his inability to trim or truckle, and his aloofness from the facile 
acquaintanceships of the modern world made him incomprehensible 
to many, and his high fastidiousness gave him a certain air of cold- 
ness. Most noble in presence, and with every grace of voice and 
manner, he moved among men like a being of another race, scorn- 
fully detached from the common struggle ; and only his friends 
knew the warmth and loyalty of his soul. At the outbreak of war 
he joined a Territorial battalion, from which he was later trans- 
ferred to the Grenadiers. More than most men he hated the loud 
bellicosities of politics, and he had never done homage to the deities 
of the crowd. His critical sense made him chary of enthusiasm, 
and it was no sudden sentimental fervour that swept him into the 
army. He saw his duty, and though it meant the shattering of 
every taste and interest, he did it joyfully, and did it to the full. 
For a little he had a post on the Staff, but applied to be sent back 
to his battalion, since he wished no privileges. In our long roll of 
honour no nobler figure will find a place. He was a type of his 
country at its best — shy of rhetorical professions, austerely self- 
respecting, one who hid his devotion under a mask of indifference, 
and, when the hour came, revealed it only in deeds. Many gavtj 
their all for the cause, but few had so much to give. He loved his 
youth, and his youth has become eternal. Debonair and brilliant 
and brave, he is now part of that immortal England which knows 
not age or weariness or defeat. 

Meanwhile the French had not been idle. On Wednesday, 
13th September, two days before the British advance, Fayolle 
carried Bouchavesnes, east of the Bapaume-Peronne road, taking 
over two thousand prisoners. He was now not three miles from 



198 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

the vital position of Mont St. Quentin — the key of Peronne — ■ 
facing it across the little valley of the Tortille. Next day the 
French had the farm of Le Priez, south-east of Combles, and on 
the afternoon of Sunday, the 17th, south of the Somme their right 
wing carried the remainder of Vermandovillers and Berny, and 
the intervening ground around Deniecourt. The following day 
Deniecourt, with its strongly fortified park, was captured. This 
gave them the whole of the Berny-Deniecourt plateau, commanding 
the lower plateau where stood the villages of Ablaincourt and 
Pressoire, and menaced Barleux, the pivot of enemy resistance 
south of the river. 

For the next week there was a lull in the main operations 
while the hammer was swung back for another blow. On the 
16th the Canadians were counter-attacked at Courcelette, and the 
6th Bavarian Division, newly arrived, struck at the New Zealanders 
at Flers. Both efforts failed, and south of Combles the fresh troops 
of the German 18th Corps succeeded no better against the French. 
The most vigorous counter-strokes were those which the Canadians 
received, and which were repeated daily for nearly a week. Mean- 
time, on Monday, the 18th, the Quadrilateral was carried — carried 
by the division which had been blocked by it three days before. 
It was not won without a heavy fight at close quarters, for the 
garrison resisted stoutly ; but we closed in on it from all sides, 
and by the evening had pushed our front five hundred yards be- 
yond it to the hollow before Morval. 

The week was dull and cloudy, and from the Monday to the 
Wednesday it rained without ceasing. But by the Friday it had 
cleared, though the mornings were now thick with autumn haze, 
and we were able once more to get that direct observation and aerial 
reconnaissance which is an indispensable preliminary to a great 
attack. On Sunday, the 24th, our batteries opened again, this 
time against the uncaptured points in the German third line like 
Morval and Lesboeufs, against intermediate positions like Gueude- 
court, and especially against Thiepval, which we now commanded 
from the east. The plan was for an attack by the Fourth Army 
on Monday the 25th, with — on its left wing — small local objectives ; 
but, on the right and centre, aiming at completing the captures 
which had been the ultimate objectives of the advance of the 15th. 
The following day the right wing of the Fifth Army would come 
into action, and it was hoped that from Thiepval to Combles the 
enemy would be driven back to his fourth line of defence and our 
own front pushed up well within assaulting distance. 



1916] CAPTURE OF COMBLES AND THIEPVAL. 199 

The hour of attack on the 25th was fixed at thirty-five minutes 
after noon. It was bright, cloudless weather, but the heat of the 
sun had lost its summer strength. That day saw an advance 
the most perfect yet made in any stage of the battle, for in almost 
every part of the field we won what we sought. The extreme left 
of the 3rd Corps was held up north of Courcelette, but the remaining 
two divisions carried out the tasks assigned to them. So did the 
centre and left divisions of the 15th Corps, while part of the 21st 
Division, assisted by a tank and an airplane, took Gueudecourt. 
The 14th Corps succeeded everywhere. The Guards, eager to 
avenge their sufferings of the week before, despite the heavy losses 
on their left, swept irresistibly upon Lesboeufs. South of them the 
5th Division took Morval, the village on the height north of Combles 
which, with its subterranean quarries and elaborate trench system, 
was a most formidable stronghold. Combles was now fairly be- 
tween the pincers. It might have fallen that day, but the French 
attack on Fregicourt failed, though they carried the village of 
Rancourt on the Bapaume-Peronne road. 

By the evening of the 25th the British had stormed an enemy 
front of six miles between Combles and Martinpuich to a depth of 
more than a mile. The fall of Morval gave them the last piece of 
uncaptured high ground on that backbone of ridge which runs 
from Thiepval through High Wood and Ginchy. The next day 
the French took Fregicourt, and Combles fell. The enemy had 
evacuated it, and though great stores of material were taken in its 
catacombs, the number of prisoners was small. 

Meantime, on the British left, on the 26th, the success was not 
less conspicuous. The nth and 18th Divisions of the Fifth Army, 
advancing at twenty-five minutes after noon under the cover of 
our artillery barrage, had carried Thiepval, the north-west corner 
of Mouquet Farm, and the Zollern Redoubt on the eastern crest. 
The German pivot had gone, the pivot which they had believed 
impregnable. So skilful was our barrage that our men were over 
the German parapets and into the dug-outs before machine guns 
could be got up to repel them. Here the prisoners were numerous, 
for the attack was in the nature of a surprise. 

On the evening of 26th September the Allied fortunes in the 
West had never looked brighter. The enemy was now in his 
fourth line, without the benefit of the high ground, and there was 
no chance of retrieving his disadvantages by observation from the 
air. Since 1st July the British alone had taken over twenty-six 
thousand prisoners, and had engaged thirty-eight German divi- 



200 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct. 

sions, the flower of the army, of which twenty-nine had been with- 
drawn exhausted and broken. The enemy had been compelled to 
use up his reserves in repeated costly and futile counter-attacks 
without compelling the Allies to relax for one moment their 
methodical pressure. A hundred captured documents showed 
that the German moral had been shaken, and that the German 
machine was falling badly out of gear. In normal seasons at least 
another month of fine weather might be reasonably counted on, 
and in that month further blows might be struck with cumulative 
force. In France they spoke of a " Picardy summer " — of fair 
bright days at the end of autumn when the ground was dry and the 
air of a crystal clearness. A fortnight of such days would suffice 
for a crowning achievement. 

The hope was destined to fail. The guns were scarcely silent 
after the great attack of the 26th, when the weather broke, and 
October was one long succession of tempestuous gales and drenching 
rains. 

II. 

To understand the difficulties which untoward weather imposed 
on the Allied advance, it is necessary to grasp the nature of the 
fifty square miles of ground which three months' fighting had 
given them, and over which lay the communications between 
their firing line and the rear. From a position like the north end 
of High Wood almost the whole British battle-ground on a clear 
day was visible to the eye. To reach the place from the old Allied 
front line some four miles of bad roads had to be traversed. They 
would have been bad roads in a moorland parish, where they suf- 
fered only the transit of the infrequent carrier's cart ; for at the 
best they were mere country tracks, casually engineered, and with 
no solid foundation. But here they had to support such a traffic 
as the world had scarcely seen before. Not the biggest mining 
camp or the vastest engineering undertaking had ever produced 
one tithe of the activity which existed behind each section of the 
battle line. There were places like Crewe, places like the skirts 
of Birmingham, places like Aldershot or Salisbury Plain. It has 
already been pointed out that the immense and complex mechanism 
of modern armies resembles a series of pyramids which taper to a 
point as they near the front. Though all modern science had gone 
to the making of this war, at the end, in spite of every artificial 
aid, it became elementary, akin in many respects to the days of 
bows and arrows. It was true of the whole front, but the Somme 



1916] THE VIEW FROM HIGH WOOD. 201 

battle-ground was peculiar in this, that the area of land where the 
devices of civilization broke down was far larger than elsewhere. 
Elsewhere it was denned more or less by the limits of the enemy's 
observation and fire. On the Somme it was defined by the previous 
three months' battle. It was not the German guns which made 
the trouble on the ground between the Albert-Peronne road and 
the British firing line. Casual bombardments vexed us little. It 
was the hostile elements and the unkindly nature of Mother Earth. 

The country roads had been rutted out of recognition by endless 
transport, and, since they never had much of a bottom, the toil 
of the road-menders had nothing to build upon. New roads were 
hard to make, for the chalky soil was poor, and had been so churned 
up by shelling and the movement of guns and troops that it had 
lost all cohesion. Countless shells had burst below the ground, 
causing everywhere subsidences and cavities. There was no stone 
in the countryside and little wood, so repairing materials had to 
be brought from a distance, which still further complicated the 
problem. To mend a road you must give it a rest, but there was 
little chance of a rest for any of those poor tortured passages. In 
all the district there were but two good highways — one running at 
right angles to our front from Albert to Bapaume, the other parallel 
to our old front line from Albert to Peronne. These, to begin with, 
were the best type of routes nationales — broad, well-engineered, 
lined with orderly poplars. By the third month of the battle even 
these were showing signs of wear, and to travel on either in a motor 
car was a switchback journey. If the famous highroads declined, 
what was likely to be the condition of the country lanes which rayed 
around Contalmaison, Longueval, and Guillemont ? 

Let us assume that early in October we have taken our stand 
at the northern angle of High Wood. It is only a spectre of a wood, 
a horrible place of matted tree trunks and crumbling trench lines, 
full of mementoes of the dead and all the dreadful debris of battle. 
To reach it we have walked across two miles of what once must 
have been breezy downland, patched with little fields of roots 
and grain. It is now like a waste brickfield in a decaying suburb, 
pock-marked with shell-holes, littered with cartridge clips, equip- 
ment, fragments of wire, and every kind of tin can. Over all the 
area hangs the curious, bitter, unwholesome smell of burning — 
an odour which will always recall to every soldier the immediate 
front of battle. The air is clear, and we look from the height over 
a shallow trough towards the low slopes in front of the Transloy 
road, behind which lies the German fourth line. Our own front 



202 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct. 

is some thousands of yards off, close under that hillock which is 
the famous Butte de Warlencourt. Far on our left is the lift of 
the Thiepval ridge, and nearer us, hidden by the slope, are the ruins 
of Martinpuich. Le Sars and Eaucourt l'Abbaye are before us, 
Flers a little to the right, and beyond it Gueudecourt. On our 
extreme right rise the slopes of Sailly-Saillisel — one can see the 
shattered trees lining the Bapaume-Peronne road — and, hidden 
by the fall of the ground, are Lesbceufs and Morval. Behind us 
are things like scarred patches on the hillsides. They are the 
remains of the Bazentin woods and the ominous wood of Delville. 
The whole confines of the British battle-ground lie open to the eye, 
from the Thiepval ridge in the north to the downs which ring the 
site of Combles. Look west, and beyond the dreary country we 
have crossed rise green downs set with woods untouched by shell — 
the normal, pleasant land of Picardy. Look east, beyond our front 
line and the smoke puffs, across the Warlencourt and Gueude- 
court ridges, and on the sky-line there also appear unbroken woods, 
and here and there a church spire and the smoke of villages. The 
German retirement in September had been rapid, and we have 
reached the fringes of a land as yet little scarred by combat. We 
are looking at the boundaries of the battlefield. We have pushed 
the enemy right up to the edge of habitable and undevastated 
country, but we pay for our success in having behind us a strip of 
sheer desolation. 

There were thus two no-man's-lands. One was between the 
front lines ; the other lay between the old enemy front and the 
front we had won. The second was the bigger problem, for across 
it must be brought the supplies of a great army. This was a 
war of motor transport, and we were doing what the early Vic- 
torians pronounced impossible — running the equivalent of steam 
engines not on prepared tracks, but on highroads, running them 
day and night in endless relays. And these highroads were not 
the decent macadamized ways of England, but roads which would 
be despised in Sutherland or Connaught. 

The problem was hard enough in fine weather ; but let the rain 
come and soak the churned-up soil, and the whole land became a 
morass. There was no pave, as in Flanders, to make a firm cause- 
way. Every road became a watercourse, and in the hollows the 
mud was as deep as a man's thighs. An army must be fed, troops 
must be relieved, guns must be supplied, and so there could be no 
slackening of the traffic. Off the roads the ground was a squelching 
bog, dug-outs crumbled in, and communication trenches ceased 



I9i6] TOPOGRAPHY OF BATTLE-GROUND. 203 

to be. In areas such as Ypres and Festubert, where the soil was 
naturally water-logged, the conditions were worse ; but at Ypres 
and Festubert we had not six miles of sponge, varied by mud tor- 
rents, across which all transport must pass. 

Weather is a vital condition of success in operations where 
great armies are concerned, for men and guns cannot fight on air. 
In modern war it is more urgent than ever, since aerial reconnais- 
sance plays so great a part, and Napoleon's " fifth element," mud, 
grows in importance with the complexity of the fighting machine. 
Again, in semi-static trench warfare, where the same area remains 
for long the battlefield, the condition of the ground is the first fact 
to be reckoned with. Once we grasp this, the difficulty of the 
October campaign, waged in almost continuous rain, will be ap- 
parent. But no words can convey an adequate impression of the 
Somme area after a week's downpour. Its discomforts had to be 
endured to be understood. 

The topography of the immediate battle-ground demands a 
note from the point of view of its tactical peculiarities. The British 
line at the end of September ran from the Schwaben Redoubt, 
1,000 yards north of Thiepval, along the ridge to a point north- 
east of Courcelette ; then just in front of Martinpuich, Flers, 
Gueudecourt, and Lesbceufs to the junction with the French. 
Morval was now part of the French area. From Thiepval to the 
north-east of Courcelette the line was for the most part on the 
crest of the ridge ; it then bent southward and followed generally 
the foot of the eastern slopes. But a special topographical feature 
complicated the position. Before our front a shallow depression 
ran north-west from north of Sailly-Saillisel to about two thousand 
yards south of Bapaume, where it turned westward and joined 
the glen of the Ancre at Miraumont. From the main Thiepval- 
Morval ridge a series of long spurs descended into this valley, of 
which two were of special importance. One was the hammer- 
headed spur immediately west of Flers, at the western end of which 
stood the tumulus called the Butte de Warlencourt. The other 
was a spur which, lying across the main trend of the ground, ran 
north from Morval to Thilloy, passing 1,000 yards to the east of 
Gueudecourt. Behind these spurs lay the German fourth position. 
It was in the main a position on reverse slopes, and so screened 
from immediate observation, though our command of the higher 
ground gave us a view of its hinterland. Our own possession of the 
heights, great though its advantages were, had certain drawbacks, 
for it meant that our communications had to make the descent 



204 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct. 

of the reverse slopes, and were thus exposed to some extent to the 
enemy's observation and long-range fire. 

The next advance of the British army had therefore two 
distinct objectives. The first — the task of the Fourth Army — 
was to carry the two spurs, and so get within assaulting distance 
of the German fourth line. Even if the grand assault should be 
postponed, the possession of the spurs would greatly relieve our 
situation, by giving us cover for our advanced gun positions and 
a certain shelter for the bringing up of supplies. It should be 
remembered that the spurs were not part of the German main 
front. They were held by the enemy as intermediate positions, 
and very strongly held — every advantage being taken of sunken 
roads, buildings, and the undulating nature of the country. They 
represented for the fourth German line what Contalmaison had 
represented for the second ; till they were carried no general as- 
sault on the main front could be undertaken. The second task — 
that of the Fifth Army — was to master the whole of the high ground 
on the Thiepval ridge, so as to get direct observation into the Ancre 
glen and over the uplands north and north-east of it. 

The month of October provided a record in wetness, spells of 
drenching rain being varied by dull, misty days, so that the sodden 
land had no chance of drying. The carrying of the spurs — meant 
as a preliminary step to a general attack — proved an operation so 
full of difficulties that it occupied all our efforts during the month, 
and with it all was not completed. The story of these weeks is 
one of minor operations, local actions with strictly limited objec- 
tives undertaken by only a few battalions. In the face of 
every conceivable difficulty we moved slowly up the intervening 
slopes. 

At first there was a certain briskness in our movement. From 
Flers north-westward, in front of Eaucourt l'Abbaye and Le Sars, 
ran a very strong trench system, which we called the Flers line, 
and which was virtually a switch connecting the old German 
third line with the intermediate positions in front of the spurs. 
The capture of Flers gave us the south-eastern part of this line, 
and the last days of September and the first of October were 
occupied in winning the remainder of it. On 29th September 
a single company of the 23rd Division carried the farm of Destre- 
mont, some 400 yards south-west of Le Sars and just north of the 
Albert-Bapaume road. On the afternoon of 1st October we ad- 
vanced on a front of 3,000 yards, taking the Flers line north of 
Destremont, while the 47th Division occupied the buildings of the 



igiS] THE STRUGGLE IN THE MUD. 205 

old abbey of Eaucourt, less than a mile south-east of Le Sars 
village. Here for several days remnants of the 6th Bavarian 
Division made a stout resistance. On the morning of 2nd October 
the enemy had regained a footing in the abbey, and during the 
whole of the next day and night the battle fluctuated. It was not 
till the morning of the 4th that we finally cleared the place, and on 
6th October the mill north-west of it was won. On the afternoon 
of 7th October — a day of cloud and strong winds, but free from 
rain — we attacked on a broader front, while the French on our 
right moved against the key position of Sailly-Saillisel. After a 
heavy struggle the 23rd Division captured Le Sars and won posi- 
tions to the east and west of it, while our line was considerably 
advanced between Gueudecourt and Lesbceufs. 

From that date for a month we struggled up the slopes, 
gaining ground, but never winning the crests. The enemy now 
followed a new practice. He had his machine guns well back in 
prepared positions and caught our attack with their long-range 
fire. We wrestled for odd lengths of fantastically named trenches 
which were often three feet deep in water. It was no light job to 
get out over the slimy parapets, and the bringing up of supplies 
and the evacuation of the wounded placed a terrible burden on 
our strength. Under conditions of such grievous discomfort an 
attack on a comprehensive scale was out of the question, the more 
when we remember the condition of the area behind our lines. 
At one moment it seemed as if the Butte had been won. On 5th 
November we were over it, and holding positions on the eastern 
side ; but that night a counter-attack by fresh troops of the 4th 
Guard Division — who had just come up — forced us to fall back. 
This was the one successful enemy counter-stroke in this stage of 
the battle. For the most part they were too weak, if delivered 
promptly ; and when they came later in strength they were broken 
up by our guns. 

The struggle of those days deserves to rank high in the records 
of British hardihood. The fighting had not the swift pace and the 
brilliant successes of the September battles. Our men had to strive 
for minor objectives, and such a task lacks the impetus and exhilara- 
tion of a great combined assault. On many occasions the battle 
resolved itself into isolated struggles, a handful of men in a mud 
hole holding out and consolidating their ground till their post was 
linked up with our main front. Rain, cold, slow reliefs, the absence 
of hot food, and sometimes of any food at all, made those episodes 
a severe test of endurance and devotion. During this period the 



206 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct. 

enemy, amazed at his good fortune, inasmuch as the weather had 
crippled our advance, fell into a flamboyant mood and represented 
the result, as a triumph of the fighting quality of his own troops. 
From day to day he announced a series of desperate British assaults 
invariably repulsed with heavy losses. He spoke of British corps 
and divisions advancing in massed formation, when, at the most, 
it had been an affair of a few battalions. Often he announced an 
attack on a day and in a locality where nothing whatever had 
happened. It is to be noted that, except for the highly successful 
action of 21st October, presently to be recorded, there was no 
British attack during the month on anything like a large scale, 
and that the various minor actions, so far from having cost us 
high, were among the most economical of the campaign. 

Our second task, in which we brilliantly succeeded, was to 
master completely the Thiepval ridge. By the end of September 
the strong redoubts north-east of the village — called Stuff and 
Zollern — were in our hands, and on the 28th of that month we 
had carried the southern face of Schwaben Redoubt. It was 
Schwaben to which the heroic advance of the Ulster Division 
had penetrated on the first da}' of the battle ; but next day the 
advanced posts had been drawn in, and three months had elapsed 
before we again entered it. It was now a very different place 
from 1st July. Our guns had pounded it out of recognition ; but 
it remained — from its situation — the pivot of the whole German 
line on the heights. Thence the trenches called Stuff and Regina 
ran east for some 5,000 yards to a point north-east of Courcelette. 
These trenches, representing many of the dominating points of the 
ridge south of the Ancre, were defended by the enemy with the 
most admirable tenacity. Between 30th September and 20th 
October, while we were battling for the remainder of Schwaben, 
he delivered not less than eleven counter-attacks against our front 
in that neighbourhood — counter-attacks which in every case were 
repulsed with heavy losses. His front was held by the 26th Reserve 
Division and by Marines of the Naval Division, who had been 
brought down from the Yser, and who gave a better account of 
themselves than their previous record had led us to expect. A 
captured German regimental order, dated 20th October, emphasized 
the necessity of regaining the Schwaben Redoubt. " Men are to be 
informed by their immediate superiors that this attack is not merely 
a matter of retaking a trench because it was formerly in German 
possession, but that the recapture of an extremely important point 
is involved. If the enemy remains on the ridge, he can blow our 



igi6] SCHWABEN REDOUBT. 207 

artillery in the Ancre valley to pieces, and the protection of the 
infantry will then be destroyed." 

From 20th to 23rd October there came a short spell of fine 
weather. There was frost at night, a strong easterly wind dried 
the ground, and the air conditions were perfect for observation. 
The enemy was quick to take advantage of the change, and early 
on the morning of Saturday, 21st October, delivered that attack 
upon the Schwaben Redoubt for which the order quoted above 
was a preparation. The attack was made in strength, and at all 
points but two was repulsed by our fire before reaching our lines. 
At two points the Germans entered our trenches, but were promptly 
driven out, leaving many dead in front of our positions, and five 
officers and seventy-nine other ranks prisoners in our hands. 

This counter-stroke came opportunely for us, for it enabled us 
to catch the enemy on the rebound. We struck shortly after noon, 
attacking against the whole length of the Regina Trench, with the 
39th, 15th, and iSth Divisions on our left and centre and the 4th 
Canadian Division on our right. The attack was completely suc- 
cessful, for the enemy, disorganized by his failure of the morning, 
was in no condition for prolonged resistance. We attained all our 
objectives, taking the whole of Stuff and Regina trenches, pushing 
out advanced posts well to the north and north-east of Schwaben 
Redoubt, and establishing our position on the crown of the ridge 
between the upper Ancre and Courcelette. In the course of the 
day we took nearly 1,100 prisoners at the expense of less than 
1,200 casualties, many of which were extremely slight. 

There still remained one small section of the ridge where our 
position was unsatisfactory. This was at the extreme eastern end 
of Regina Trench, just west of the Bapaume road. Its capture was 
achieved on the night of 10th November, when the 4th Canadian 
Division carried it on a front of 1,000 yards. This rounded off 
our gains and allowed us to dominate the upper valley of the Ancre 
and the uplands beyond it behind the unbroken German first line 
from. Beaumont Hamel to Serre. 

Meantime, during the month, the French armies on our right 
had pressed forward. At the end of September they had pene- 
trated into St. Pierre Vaast Wood, whose labyrinthine depths 
extended east of Rancourt and south of Saillisel. The immediate 
object of the forces under Foch was to co-operate with the British 
advance by taking the height of Sailly-Saillisel, and so to work 
round Mont St. Quentin, the main defence of Peronne on the north. 
On 4th October they carried the German intermediate line between 



208 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

Morval and St. Pierre Vaast Wood, and on 8th October— in a 
splendid movement — they swept up the Sailly-Saillisel slopes and 
won the Bapaume-Peronne road to a point 200 yards from its 
northern entry into the village. On 10th October Micheler's 
Tenth Army was in action on a front of three miles, and carried 
the western outskirts of Ablaincourt and the greater part of the 
wood north-west of Chaulnes, taking nearly 1,300 prisoners. On 
the 15th Fayolle pushed east of Bouchavesnes, and on the same 
day, south of the Somme, Micheler, after beating off a counter- 
attack, carried a mile and a quarter of the German front west of 
Belloy, and advanced well to the north-east of Ablaincourt, taking 
some 1,000 prisoners. This brought the French nearer to the ridge 
of Villers-Carbonnel, behind which the German batteries played 
the same part for the southern defence of Peronne as Mont St. 
Quentin did for the northern. 

Next day Sailly-Saillisel was entered and occupied as far as the 
cross-roads, the Saillisel section of the village on the road running 
eastwards being still in German hands. For the next few days 
the enemy delivered violent counter-attacks from both north and 
east, using liquid fire ; but they failed to oust the garrison, and 
that part of the village held by the Germans was mercilessly pounded 
by the French guns. On the 21st the newly arrived 2nd Bavarian 
Division made a desperate attack from the southern border of 
Saillisel and the ridge north-east of St. Pierre Vaast Wood, but 
failed with many losses. There were other heavy and fruitless 
counter-strokes south of the Somme in the regions of Biaches and 
Chaulnes. The month closed with the French holding Sailly but 
not Saillisel ; holding the western skirts of St. Pierre Vaast Wood, 
and south of the river outflanking Ablaincourt and Chaulnes. 



III. 

On 9th November the weather improved. The wind swung 
round to the north and the rain ceased, but owing to the season 
of the year the ground was slow to dry, and in the area of the 
Fourth Army the roads were still past praying for. Presently 
frost came and a powder of snow, and then once more the rain. 
But in the few days of comparatively good conditions the British 
Commander-in-Chief brought the battle to a further stage, and 
won a conspicuous victory. 

On the first day of July, as we have seen, our attack had failed 
on the eight miles between Gommecourt and Thiepval. For four 



iqi6] THE FRONT NORTH OF THE ANCRE. 209 

months we drove far into the heart of the German defences farther 
south, but the stubborn enemy front before Beaumont Hamel and 
Serre remained untried. The position was immensely strong, and 
its holders — not without reason — believed it to be impregnable. 
All the slopes were tunnelled deep with old catacombs — many of 
them made originally as hiding-places in the Wars of Religion — 
and these had been linked up by passages to constitute a subter- 
ranean city, where whole battalions could be assembled. There 
were endless redoubts and strong points armed with machine guns, 
as we knew to our cost in July, and the wire entanglements were 
on a scale which had never been paralleled. Looked at from our 
first line they resembled a solid wall of red rust. Very strong, too, 
were the sides of the Ancre, should we seek to force a passage 
that way, and the hamlets of Beaucourt and St. Pierre Divion, 
one on each bank, were fortresses of the Beaumont Hamel stamp. 
From Gommecourt to the Thiepval ridge the enemy positions were 
the old first-line ones, prepared during two years of leisure, and not 
the improvised defences on which they had been thrown back 
between Thiepval and Chaulnes. 

At the beginning of November the area of the Allied pressure 
was over thirty miles, but we had never lost sight of the necessity 
of widening the breach. It was desirable, with a view to the winter 
warfare, that the enemy should be driven out of his prepared 
defences on the broadest possible front. The scheme of an assault 
upon the Serre-Ancre line might seem a desperate one so late in 
the season, but we had learned much since 1st July, and, as com- 
pared with that date, we had now certain real advantages. In 
the first place our whole tactical use of artillery had undergone a 
change. Our creeping barrage, moving in front of advancing 
infantry, protected them to a great extent against the machine- 
gun fusillade from parapets and shell holes which had been our 
undoing in the earlier battle, and assisted them in keeping direc- 
tion. In the second place our possession of the whole Thiepval 
ridge seriously outflanked the German front north of the Ancre. 
In the dips of the high ground behind Serre and Beaumont Hamel 
their batteries had been skilfully emplaced in the beginning of 
July, and they had been able to devote their whole energy to the 
attack coming from the west. But now they were facing south- 
ward and operating against our lines on the Thiepval ridge, and 
we commanded them to some extent by possessing the higher 
ground and the better observation. If, therefore, we should 
attack again from the west, supported also by our artillery fire 



210 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

from the south, the enemy guns would be fighting on two fronts. 
The German position in July had been a straight line ; it was 
now a salient. 

We had another asset for a November assault. The slow 
progress of the Fourth Army during October had led the enemy 
to conclude that our offensive had ceased for the winter. Drawing 
a natural deduction from the condition of the country, he argued 
that an attack on a grand scale was physically impossible, especially 
an attack upon a fortress which had defied our efforts when we 
advanced with fresh troops and unwearied impetus in the height 
of summer. But the area from Thiepval northward did not 
suffer from transport difficulties in the same degree as the southern 
terrain. Since we would be advancing from what was virtually 
our old front line, we would escape the problem of crossing five 
or six miles of shell-torn ground by roads ploughed up and broken 
from four months' traffic. 

It is necessary to grasp the topographical features of the new 
battle-ground. From north of the Schwaben Redoubt our front 
curved sharply to the north-west, crossing the Ancre 500 yards 
south of the hamlet of St. Pierre Divion, and extending northward 
along the foot of the slopes on which lay the villages of Beaumont 
Hamel and Serre. From the high ground north-west of the Ancre 
several clearly marked spurs descended to the upper valley of that 
stream. The chief was a long ridge with Serre at its western ex- 
tremity, the village of Puisieux on the north, Beaucourt-sur-Ancre 
on the south, and Miraumont at the eastern end. South of this 
there was another feature running from a point a thousand yards 
north of Beaumont Hamel to the village of Beaucourt. This 
latter spur had on its south-west side a shallow depression up which 
runs the Beaucourt-Beaumont Hamel road, and it was defined 
on the north-east by the Beaucourt-Serre road. All the right bank 
of the Ancre was thus a country of slopes and pockets. On the 
left bank there was a stretch of flatfish ground under the Thiepval 
ridge extending up the valley past St. Pierre Divion to Grandcourt. 

On Sunday, 12th November, Sir Hubert Gough's Fifth Army held 
the area from Gommecourt in the north to the Albert-Bapaume 
road. Opposite Serre and extending south to a point just north of 
Beaumont Hamel lay the 31st, 3rd, and 2nd Divisions. In front 
of Beaumont Hamel was the 51st (Highland Territorial) Division. 
They had been more than eighteen months in France, and at the 
end of July and the beginning of August had spent seventeen days 
in the line at High Wood. On their right, from a point just south 



i 9 i6] BEAUMONT HAMEL. 211 

of the famous Y Ravine to the Ancre, lay the 63rd (Naval) Division, 
which had had a long record of fighting from Antwerp to Gallipoli 
but now for the first time took part in an action on the Western 
front. Across the river lay the 39th and 19th Divisions. The 
boundary of the attack on the right was roughly defined by the 
Thiepval-Grandcourt road. 

The British guns began on the morning of Saturday, the nth, 
a bombardment devoted to the destruction of the enemy's wire 
and parapets. It went on fiercely during Sunday, but did not 
increase to hurricane fire, so that the enemy had no warning of 
the hour of our attack. In the darkness of the early morning of 
Monday, 13th November, the fog gathered thick — a cold, raw vapour 
which wrapped the ground like a garment. It was still black 
darkness, darker even than the usual moonless winter night, when, 
at 5.45 a.m., our troops crossed the parapets. The attack had 
been most carefully planned, but in that dense shroud it was hard 
for the best trained soldiers to keep direction. On the other hand 
the enemy had no warning of our coming till our men were surging 
over his trenches. 

The attack of the British left wing on Serre failed, as it had 
failed on 1st July. That stronghold, being farther removed from 
the effect of our flanking fire from the Thiepval ridge, presented all 
the difficulties which had baffled us at the first attempt. South 
of it and north of Beaumont Hamel we carried the German first 
position and swept beyond the fortress called the Quadrilateral — 
which had proved too hard a knot to unravel four months earlier. 
This gave us the northern part of the under feature which we have 
noted as running south-east to Beaucourt. Our right wing had a 
triumphant progress. Almost at once it gained its objectives. 
St. Pierre D'vion fell early in the morning, and the 39th Division 
engaged there advanced a mile and took nearly 1,400 prisoners 
at a total cost of less than 600 casualties. By the evening they 
were holding the Hansa line, which ran from the neighbourhood 
of Stuff Trench on the heights to the bank of the river opposite 
Beaucourt. 

But it was on the doings of the two centre divisions that the 
fortune of the day depended. The Highland Territorials — a kilted 
division except for their lowland Pioneer battalion — had one of 
the hardest tasks that had faced troops in the battle, a task com- 
parable to the taking of Contalmaison and Guillemont and Delville 
Wood. They had before them the fortress-village of Beaumont 
Hamel itself. South of it lay the strong Ridge Redoubt, and south 



212 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

again the Y Ravine, whose prongs projected down to the German 
front line and whose tail ran back towards Station Road south 
of the Cemetery. This Y Ravine was some 800 yards long, and 
in places 30 feet deep, with overhanging sides. In its precipitous 
banks were the entrances to the German dug-outs, completely 
screened from shell-fire and connecting farther back by means of 
tunnels with the great catacombs. Such a position allowed rein- 
forcements to be sent up underground, even though we might be 
holding all the sides. The four successive German lines were so 
skilfully linked up subterraneously that they formed virtually a 
single line, no part of which could be considered to be captured till 
the whole was taken. The first assault took the Scots through the 
German defences on all their front, except just before the ends of 
the Y Ravine. They advanced on both sides of that gully and 
carried the third enemy line shortly after daybreak. There was 
much stern fighting in the honeycombed land, but early in the 
forenoon they had pushed right through the German main position 
and were pressing beyond Station Road and the hollow where the 
village lay towards their ultimate objective — the Beaucourt-Serre 
road. The chief fighting of the day centred round Y Ravine. So 
soon as we had gained the third line on both sides of it our men 
leaped down the steep sides into the gully. Then followed a 
desperate struggle, for the entrances to the dug-outs had been 
obscured by our bombardment, and no man knew from what 
direction the enemy might appear. About mid-day the eastern 
part of the ravine was full of our men, but the Germans were in the 
prongs. Early in the afternoon we delivered a fresh attack from 
the west and gradually forced the defence to surrender. After 
that it became a battle of nettoyeurs, small parties digging out 
Germans from underground lairs — for the very strength of his 
fortifications proved a trap to the enemy once they had been 
breached. 

On their right the Naval Division advanced against Beaucourt, 
attacking over the ground which had been partly covered by the 
left of the Ulster Division on 1st July. On that day the British 
trenches had been between 500 and 700 yards from the German 
front line, leaving too great an extent of no-man's-land to be 
covered by the attacking infantry. But before the present action 
the Naval Division had dug advanced trenches, and now possessed 
a line of departure not more than 250 yards from the enemy. 
Their first objective was the German support line, their second 
Station Road — which ran from Beaumont Hamel to the main 



igi6] THE NAVAL DIVISION AT BEAUCOURT. 213 

Albert-Lille railway — and their third the trench line outside Beau- 
court village. The wave of assault carried the men over the first 
two German lines, and for a moment it looked as if the advance 
was about to go smoothly forward to its goal. But in the centre of 
our front of attack, in a communication trench between the second 
and third German lines and about 800 yards from the river bank, 
was a very strong redoubt manned by machine guns. This had not 
been touched by our artillery, and it effectively blocked the centre 
of our advance, while at the same time flanking fire from the slopes 
behind Beaumont Hamel checked our left. Various parties got 
through and reached the German support line and even as far as 
Station Road. But at about 8.30 the situation, as reviewed by 
the divisional commander, bore an ominous likeness to what had 
happened to the Ulstermen on 1st July. Isolated detachments had 
gone forward, but the enemy had manned his reserve trenches behind 
them, and the formidable redoubt was blocking any general progress. 
At this moment there came news by a pigeon message of the 
right battalion. It had gone clean through to the third objective, 
and was now waiting outside Beaucourt village for our barrage 
to lift in order to take the place. Its commander had led his men 
along the brink of the river to Station Road, where he had collected 
odd parties of other battalions, and at 8.21 had reached Beaucourt 
Trench — a mile distant from our front of assault. All that day a 
precarious avenue of communication for food and ammunition was 
kept open along the edge of the stream, under such shelter as the 
banks afforded. A second attack on the whole front was delivered 
in the afternoon by the supporting brigade of the Naval Division, 
but this, too, was held up by the redoubt, though again a certain 
number got through and reached Station Road and even the slopes 
beyond it. That night it was resolved to make a great effort to 
put the redoubt out of action. Two tanks were brought up, one 
of which succeeded at dawn in getting within range, and the garri- 
son of the stronghold hoisted the white flag. The way was now 
clear for a general advance next morning, to assist in which a 
brigade of another division was brought up in support. Part of 
the advance lost direction, but the result was to clear the German 
first position and the ground between Station Road and Beaucourt 
Trench. At the same time the right battalion, which had been 
waiting outside Beaucourt for twenty-four hours, assisted by a 
Territorial battalion and by details from its own division, carried 
the place by storm. The success was an instructive proof of the 
value of holding forward positions even though flanks and rear 



214 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

were threatened, if there was any certainty of supports. Like the 
doings of the 15th Division at Loos, it pointed the way to a new 
form of tactics, but the lesson was read more correctly by the enemy 
than by the Allies. 

By the night of Tuesday, 14th November, our total of prisoners 
on the five-mile front of battle was well over 5,000. The German 
counter-attack of the 15th failed to win back any ground. Just 
east of Beaumont Hamel there was an extensive no-man's-land, 
for Munich Trench could not be claimed by either side, but in the 
Beaucourt area we steadily pressed on. On Thursday, the 16th, 
we pushed east from Beaucourt village along the north bank of 
the Ancre, establishing posts in the Bois d'Hollande to the north- 
west of Grandcourt. Frost had set in, and it was possible from the 
Thiepval ridge or from the slopes above Hamel to see clearly the 
whole new battlefield, and even in places to follow the infantry 
advance — a thing which had not been feasible since the summer 
fighting. By that day our total of prisoners was over 6,000. On the 
17th we again advanced, and on Saturday, the 18th, in a downpour 
of icy rain, the Canadians on the right of the Fifth Army, attacking 
from Regina Trench, moved well down the slope towards the river, 
while the centre pushed close to the western skirts of Grandcourt. 

It was the last attack, with which concluded the Battle of 
the Somme. The weather had now fallen like a curtain upon the 
drama. The final stage was a fitting denouement to the great 
action. It gave us three strongly fortified villages, and practically 
the whole of the minor spur which ran from north of Beaumont 
Hamel to Beaucourt. It extended the breach in the main enemy 
position by five miles. Our front was now far down the slopes 
from the Thiepval ridge and north and west of Grandcourt. We 
had taken well over 7,000 prisoners and vast quantities of material, 
including several hundred machine guns. Our losses had been 
comparatively slight, while those of the enemy were — on his own 
admission — severe. Above all, at the moment when he was 
beginning to argue himself into the belief that the Somme offen- 
sive was over, his calculations had been upset by an unexpected 
stroke. We had opened the old wound and undermined his moral 
by reviving the terrors of the unknown and the unexpected. 



IV. 

Before 1st July Verdun had been the greatest continuous battle 
fought in the world's history ; but the Somme surpassed it both 



, 



THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME. 







•I- '.' 



9 ■• •. RflBA 



' 



i 9 i6] SUMMARY OF BATTLE. 215 

in numbers of men engaged, in the tactical difficulty of the objec- 
tives, and in its importance in the strategical scheme of the cam- 
paign. Its significance may be judged by the way in which it 
preoccupied the enemy High Command. It was the fashion in 
Germany to describe it as a futile attack upon an unshakable 
fortress, an attack which might be disregarded by her public 
opinion while she continued her true business of conquest in the 
East. But the fact remained that the great bulk of the German 
troops and by far the best of them were kept congregated in this 
area. In November Germany had 127 divisions on the Western front, 
and no more than 75 in the East. Though Brussilov's attack 
and Falkenhayn's Rumanian expedition compelled her to send 
fresh troops eastward, she did not diminish but increased her strength 
in the West. In June she had fourteen divisions on the Somme , in 
November she had in line or just out of it well over forty. 

By what test are we to judge the result of a battle in modern 
war ? In the old days of open fighting there was little room for 
doubt, since the retreat or rout or envelopment of the beaten army 
was too clear for argument. Now, when the total battle-front was 
3,000 miles, such easy proofs were lacking ; but the principle 
remained the same. A battle is final when it ends in the destruc- 
tion of the enemy's fighting strength. A battle is won — and it 
may be decisively won — when it results in achieving the strategic 
purpose of one of the combatants, provided that purpose is, on 
military grounds, a wise one. Hence the amount of territory 
occupied and the number of important points captured are not 
necessarily sound criteria at all. The success or defeat of a strategic 
purpose, that is the sole test. Judging by this, Tannenberg was 
a victory for Germany, the Marne for France, and the First Battle 
of Ypres for Britain. The Battle of the Somme was no less a 
victory, since it achieved the purpose of the Allies. 

In the first place, it relieved Verdun, and enabled Nivelle to 
advance presently to a conspicuous success. In the second place, 
it detained the main German forces on the Western front. In 
the third place, it drew into the battle, and gravely depleted, the 
surplus man-power of the enemy, and struck a shattering blow at 
his moral. For two years the German behind the shelter of his 
trench-works and the great engine of his artillery had fought with 
comparatively little cost against opponents far less well equipped. 
The Somme put the shoe on the other foot, and he came to know 
what the British learned at Ypres and the French in Artois — 
what it meant to be bombarded out of existence, and to cling to 



216 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

shell-holes and the ruins of trenches under a pitiless fire. It was 
a new thing in his experience, and took the heart out of men who, 
under other conditions, had fought with skill and courage. Further, 
the Allies had dislocated his whole military machine. Their cease- 
less pressure had crippled his staff work, and confused the organi- 
zation of which he had justly boasted. Haig's sober summary 
was true. " The enemy's power has not yet been broken, nor is 
it yet possible to form an estimate of the time the war may last 
before the objects for which the Allies are fighting have been 
attained. But the Somme battle has placed beyond doubt the 
ability of the Allies to gain these objects. The German army is 
the mainstay of the Central Powers, and a full half of that army, 
despite all the advantages of the defensive, supported by the 
strongest fortifications, suffered defeat on the Somme this year. 
Neither the victors nor the vanquished will forget this ; and, 
though bad weather has given the enemy a respite, there will 
undoubtedly be many thousands in his ranks who will begin the 
new campaign with little confidence in their ability to resist our 
assaults or to overcome our defence." 

Let it be freely granted that Germany met the strain in a 
soldierly fashion. She set herself at once to learn the lessons of 
the battle and to revise her methods where revision was needed. 
She made drastic changes in her High Commands. She endeav- 
oured still further to exploit her already much-exploited man- 
power, and combed out even from vital industries every man who 
was capable of taking the field. Her effort was magnificent — 
and it was war. She had created since ist July some thirty odd 
new divisions, formed partly by converting garrison units into 
field troops, and partly by regrouping units from existing forma- 
tions — taking a regiment away from a four-regiment division, 
and a battalion from a four-battalion regiment, and withdrawing 
the Jager battalions. But these changes, though they increased 
the number of her units, did not add proportionately to the 
aggregate of her numerical strength, and we may take 100,000 
men as the maximum of the total gain in field troops from this 
readjustment. Moreover, she had to provide artillery and staffs 
for each of the new divisions, which involved a heavy strain 
upon services already taxed to the full. Her commissioned classes 
had been sorely depleted. " The shortage," so ran an order of 
Hindenburg's in September, " due to our heavy casualties, of 
experienced, energetic, and well-trained junior officers is sorely 
felt at the present time." 



1916] MORAL EFFECT IN GERMANY. 217 

The Battle of the Somme had, therefore, fulfilled the Allied 
purpose in taxing to the uttermost the German war machine. It 
tried the command, it tried the nation at home, and it tried to 
the last limit of endurance the men in the line. The place became 
a name of terror. Though belittled in communiques, and rarely 
mentioned in the press, it was a word of ill-omen to the whole 
German people, that " blood-bath " to which many journeyed and 
from which few returned. Of what avail their easy conquests on 
the Danube when this deadly cancer in the West was eating into 
the vitals of the nation ? Winter might give a short respite — 
though the Battle of the Ancre had been fought in winter weather 
— but spring would come, and the evil would grow malignant again. 
Germany gathered herself for a great effort, marshalling for com- 
pulsory war work the whole male population between seventeen 
and sixty, sending every man to the trenches who could walk on 
sound feet, doling out food supplies on the minimum scale for the 
support of life, and making desperate efforts by submarine war- 
fare to cripple her enemies' strength. She was driven to stake her 
last resources on the game. 

In every great action there is a major purpose, a reasoned and 
calculated purpose which takes no account of the accidents of 
fortune. But in most actions there come sudden strokes of luck 
which turn the scale. For such strokes a general has a right to 
hope, but on them he dare not build. Marengo, Waterloo, Chan- 
cellorsville — most of the great battles of other times — showed these 
gifts of destiny. But in the elaborate and mechanical warfare of 
to-day they come rarely, and at the Battle of the Somme they 
did not fall to the lot of Foch or Haig. They did what they set 
out to do ; step by step they drove their way through the German 
defences ; but it was all done by hard and stubborn fighting, 
without any bounty from capricious fortune. Germany had claimed 
that her line was impregnable ; they broke it again and again. 
She had counted on her artillery machine ; they crippled and out- 
matched it. She had decried the fighting stuff of the new British 
armies ; we showed that it was a match for her Guards and Bran- 
denburgers.* The major purpose was attained. Like some harsh 
and remorseless chemical, the waxing Allied energy was eating into 
the German waning mass. Its sure and methodical pressure had 
the inevitability of a natural law. It was attrition, but attrition 

* Between ist July and 18th November the British on the Somme took just 
over 38,000 prisoners, including 800 officers, 29 heavy ?uns, 96 field guns, 136 trench 
mortars, and 514 machine guns. 



2i8 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

in the acute form — not like the slow erosion of cliffs by the sea, 
but like the steady crumbling of a mountain to which hydraulic 
engineers have applied a mighty head of water. And it was a 
law of life and of war that the weakness of the less strong would 
grow pari passu with the power of the stronger. 

The tactics and strategy of the Allies at the Somme were those 
natural to armies which had a great preponderance in men and 
munitions. The method of laborious attrition presupposed the 
continuance of the war on two fronts. Should Russia fall out of 
line, the situation would be radically changed, and the plan would 
become futile against an enemy with a large new reservoir of 
recruitment. But at the time of its inception, uninspired and 
expensive as it might be, it was a sound plan, and ceteris paribus 
would have given the Allies victory before the end of 19 17. Even 
as things befell, the battle was not fought in vain, for it struck a 
blow at the heart of Germany's strength from which she never 
wholly recovered. Let Ludendorff himself describe the situation 
at the close : " Our position was uncommonly difficult, and a way 
out hard to find. We could not contemplate an offensive our- 
selves, having to keep our reserves available for defence. ... If 
the war lasted our defeat seemed inevitable." * 

• My War Memories (Eng. trans.), I., p. 307. 



CHAPTER LXIV. 
Rumania's campaign. 

August 2j-December 6, 1916. 

Rumania's strategical Problems— Her mistaken Policy— The Advance into Transyl- 
vania — Falkenhayn prepares his Counter-stroke — Mackensen in the Dobrudja 
— The Rumanians fall back across the Mountains — Last Stage of Brussilov's 
Attack— Mackensen crosses the Danube — German Occupation of Wallachia — 
Fall of Bucharest. 

The Rumanian declaration of war, issued at nine o'clock on the 
evening of 27th August, was accompanied by an order for a general 
mobilization. This was no more than a formality to recall officers 
and men still on leave, and to summon second-line troops to guard 
the railways. For months mobilization had been in progress, and 
such strength as Rumania possessed was ready to her hand when, 
her harvest over, she made the great decision. Next day, 28th 
August, at eighteen points her troops had crossed the Transylvanian 
border. 

Before entering on the details of her campaign we must note 
the nature of the military problem now presented to her, and the 
resources which she possessed to meet it. Her immediate and con- 
tiguous enemies were Austria and Bulgaria, and the first point to 
consider is the nature of her frontier. That frontier fell naturally 
into three sections. From Dorna Watra in the north to Orsova 
on the Danube the Transylvanian plateau, rimmed by a range of 
mountains, jutted out like a huge bastion into her territory, almost 
dividing Moldavia from Wallachia. Here the border line, nearly 
four hundred miles in length, followed for the most part the crest 
of the hills. Of these the northern part is known as the Southern 
Carpathians and the southern as the Transylvanian Alps, but it 
is all one mountain system. On the Rumanian side the heights fall 
steeply to the wooded foothills, but on the west the slopes are easier 
towards the plateau. The chief peaks are from 7,000 to 8,000 feet 
in height, and the passes are for the most part deep winding ravines. 

219 



220 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug 

These passes, which were to play a great part in the campaign, 
are numerous ; but only ten may be considered of military impor- 
tance. Four of these are on the Moldavian front — the Tolgyes, 
served by a highway from the Austrian railhead at Toplitza ; the 
Bekas, traversed by a bad mountain road ; the Gyimes, carrying 
a road and a railway from Okna in Moldavia to Czik Szereda in 
Transylvania ; and the Oitoz, with a road from Okna to the head 
of an Austrian branch line. Of the four all were close to the 
railway on the Austrian side, but only two had good Rumanian 
railway connections. At the angle of the salient is the Buzeu or 
Bodza Pass, with a railhead on the Rumanian side and a good road 
running to Kronstadt. Going west, follow in order the Bratocea, 
the Predeal or Tomos, and the Torzburg Pass, all the communica- 
tions of which radiate from Kronstadt. Of these the Predeal 
carried the main road and railway from Kronstadt to Bucharest, 
and the Torzburg a road from Kronstadt to the Rumanian rail- 
head at Kampolung. Farther west lies the Rotherthurm or Red 
Tower Pass, the best in the range, through which ran the road and 
railway from Hermannstadt to Bucharest. It is traversed by the 
river Aluta, which, rising close to the source of the Maros, the 
other great Transylvanian stream, flows south and west inside the 
rim of the salient, and then at the Rotherthurm breaks through 
the Transylvanian Alps to the Wallachian plains. Last comes the 
Vulkan, a road pass with a railhead at each end of it. On the 
Transylvanian side it gave access to the mining district of Petroseny 
and Hatszeg, and on the Wallachian side it opened upon the wide 
cornlands around Crajova. 

From Orsova to near Turtukai, a distance of some 270 miles, 
the Rumanian frontier was the Danube. From the Iron Gates to 
the Delta the northern shore of the river is lower than the southern, 
and, being subject to constant inundations, is for the most part a 
chain of swamps, lakes, and backwaters. The patches of firm land 
can be picked out even on a small-scale map by noting the points 
where a town or village on the Rumanian shore faces a town or 
village on the Bulgarian side. These pairs of towns mark the places 
where for centuries there have been ferries across the river. Several 
were railheads, provided with wharves and facilities for handling 
cargo in river traffic. Below Orsova the Danube is rarely less than 
a mile broad, and on this stretch of frontier it was clear that military 
operations could not be immediately undertaken. 

The last section ran from the Danube to the Black Sea across 
the arid plateau known as the Dobrudja. To reach it Rumania 



igi6] RUMANIA'S STRATEGIC POSITION. 221 

had the good river crossings at Turtukai and Silistria, and the 
great bridge of Tchernavoda — the only bridge between Neusatz- 
Peterwardein in Hungary and the mouth of the Danube. The 
Dobrudja, which may be regarded as a tongue of the Balkan 
uplands projecting to the north-east, is a barren steppe of sand- 
covered limestone, unwatered and treeless. It abuts on various 
crossings of the Danube delta, and so has for centuries been the gate 
of invasion from the north, since the Goths and Slavs first swept 
down upon Byzantium. Those invasions have left their trail upon 
it, and to-day it is still inhabited by the debris of forgotten races, 
the flotsam and jetsam of history. Her new frontier, now pushed 
forty miles southward by the Treaty of Bucharest, gave Rumania 
a position on the flank of Bulgaria which, if she remained on the 
defensive, would endanger any Bulgarian attempt to cross the 
Danube, and, if she took the offensive, might enable her to threaten 
the main line of communications between Constantinople and 
Vienna. 

Stated, therefore, in geographical terms, the situation of Ru- 
mania in a war with the Teutonic League was that on west and 
south she was enclosed by hostile territory. The Danube front might 
for the moment be neglected, and the Dobrudja front seemed to her 
safe from any serious attack. The main danger, in her view, lay 
in the Transylvanian salient. Her frontier there was in the shape 
of the curve of a capital D, a bad defensive line at the best, and 
impossible for her to hold strongly with the forces at her command. 
Her first interest was to shorten it. If she could reach the upright 
line of the D — a position represented by the central Maros valley 
between Maros Vasarhely and Broos — she would be safe from any 
serious enemy counter-offensive, and would be able either to wait 
with an easy mind on the development of the Russian campaign 
farther north, or to strike southward against the Ottoman Railway. 

But in modern war a strategic position is not determined by 
geography alone, but mainly by those means of communication 
through which the industry of man has supplemented nature. In 
railways Rumania was far behind her enemies. Her own lines had 
been built largely with Austria's assistance at a time when she was 
Austria's ally, and at no point had their construction been devised 
in the light of military needs. On the western side of the mountains 
Austria was well supplied. A number of railways, including four 
first-class lines, converged on Transylvania. There were sufficient 
cross lines, and all were linked together by the frontier railway, 
which curved round the border just inside the mountains, thereby 



222 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug. 

permitting of concentration at any point for the defence of the 
passes, while another cross line served for concentration along the 
Maros valley. Besides the line at the Iron Gates, two good lines 
ran into the Wallachian plains, and a third into Moldavia. The 
whole system enabled operations to be conducted on the inside of 
a curved salient. The defect of the Rumanian system was that 
there were few lines for through movements ; that the branch lines 
were short lengths ending in railheads near the river or the moun- 
tains ; that, since most of the tracks were single, traffic capacity 
was limited ; and that, since there was a paucity of alternative routes 
to any point, traffic backwards and forwards had to be carried 
over the one line. A Rumanian army operating against Transyl- 
vania was compelled to use a railway system which in the military 
sense was entirely on exterior lines, and the length of movement 
required to reinforce any point was excessive. Whereas the 
Austrians had a lateral railway between twenty and thirty miles 
from the frontier, the only lateral connection in Moldavia was fifty 
miles away, and in Wallachia still farther. From the Predeal Pass 
to the Rotherthurm Pass troops could be moved on the Austrian 
side by a railway journey of eighty miles, but the same problem 
for Rumania meant a detour of nearly three hundred. 

The situation elsewhere on the border was little better. No 
railway line could follow the swampy northern shore of the Danube. 
In the Dobrudja Rumania had the new railway from Tchernavoda 
to Dobritch ; but she had no lateral line, for the main Tchernavoda- 
Constanza railway was sixty miles inside the new frontier. Bul- 
garia, on the other hand, had the Rustchuk-Varna line close at 
her back for offence and defence. It may fairly be said, therefore, 
that the natural strategic difficulties of Rumania's geographical 
situation were increased in every theatre by railway communica- 
tions vastly inferior to those of her enemies. 

The second part of her problem was the military strength at 
her disposal. She had, roughly, half a million of men ; but her 
armies, while containing abundance of good human material, were, 
except in the older units, imperfectly trained and very imperfectly 
armed. For two years she had contemplated war ; but since she 
was dependent for new materiel on foreign imports by way of 
Russia, the supply had naturally fallen far short of the demand. 
The standard of equipment which she had set herself before declar- 
ing war had been too modestly conceived. She was desperately 
short of heavy guns, of aircraft, of machine guns, even of rifles, 
and she had no great reserve of ammunition. The Vetterli rifle 



I 9 i6] HER RELIANCE ON RUSSIA. 223 

had just been served out to her troops — a weapon which Italy had 
discarded twenty years before. In every branch of equipment 
she was far below the level of the Teutonic League. Moreover, 
she was not rich in trained officers or experienced generals. Few, 
even of her senior commanders, had had actual experience of war, 
save as boys in the Russo-Turkish campaign forty years before. 
She was preparing not for a war of positions, where strong natural 
and artificial defences may give a chance to the weaker side, but 
for a war of movement, where skilful leadership and sound organ- 
ization are all in all. She was entering, moreover, upon a cam- 
paign against an enemy who fought largely with his guns, and she 
had only a trifling artillery to meet the gigantic " machine " which 
had now been elaborated through two years of unceasing effort. 
Her four armies — each no more than a group of half a dozen infantry 
divisions ill supported by artillery— had to guard an awkward 
frontier of over seven hundred miles. She could not expect to 
succeed unless she had the help of her allies in guidance and leader- 
ship, in strategical diversions, and above all in equipment. She 
counted especially on Russia — on Lechitski's progress in the Car- 
pathians to embarrass the Austrian left wing in Transylvania. 
She counted, too, on Sarrail's advance in the Balkans to distract 
the attention of Bulgaria. She reckoned upon a steady flow of 
munitions across the Russian border. In all these hopes, as we 
shall see, she was disappointed. She was left to make her decisions, 
and for the most part to fight her battles, alone. 

The blame for the Allies' failure to support Rumania is hard 
to apportion. Partly it was the fortune of war. Sarrail failed to 
advance from Salonika, not from lack of good will, but from lack 
of strength. Lechitski, in the Carpathians, with an army tired 
by four months' fighting, could not play the part assigned to him. 
Russia, at the moment of Rumania's entry, was coming to the end 
of her mighty effort from sheer exhaustion of men and munitions. 
Her General Staff had tried to induce Rumania to declare war in 
June, when Brussilov's advance was beginning, but she had deferred 
the step to so late a date that the impetus of the Galician movement 
was all but exhausted. The great soldier who was Chief of the 
Russian Staff now deprecated Rumania's adventure, and in this, 
as in many other things, Alexeiev was right. When the debacle 
came, he and his colleagues did their best to step into the breach, 
but the chance of success had long passed. Yet it must be remem- 
bered that it was Petrograd especially which forced King Ferdinand's 
decision, and on the civil Government of Russia must rest no small 



224 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug. 

part 01 the blame for what followed. They had offered Rumania 
extravagant terms, in the shape of territorial annexations, and 
Sturmer and his camarilla had guaranteed an ample munitionment. 
This last and most vital promise was never fulfilled — was never 
attempted to be fulfilled. There were strange tales of consign- 
ments of munitions for Rumania side-tracked and delayed by 
direct orders from Petrograd, and there is some reason to believe 
that Sturmer had deliberately planned a Rumanian defeat as part 
of his scheme for a separate peace with Germany. Such treason 
was confined to the civilians, and was wholly alien to the mind of 
the Russian soldiers. The latter did what they could, but Fate 
and Hindenburg were the stronger. 

Since, therefore, in the details of the campaign, Rumania 
followed her own counsels, it remains to consider the wisdom of 
the strategy she adopted. Assuming that the Allied assistance 
which she counted on had been forthcoming, was her plan of 
action the best in the circumstances ? During the winter of 19 16 
she was severely criticized in the West both in military and civil 
circles, and the criticisms were mainly directed to her initial strat- 
egy. What was this strategy, and wherein did it fall short of 
common sense ? 

Of her four armies she directed three against Transylvania, 
with, as their ultimate objective, the central valley of the river 
Maros. The fourth army was left on the defensive in the Dobrudja, 
to cover the Bulgarian frontier ; and small detachments from it 
were scattered along the Danube valley to watch the crossing- 
places. The Austrian Danube flotilla held all the middle river, and 
the Rumanian river-craft were unable to leave the lower reaches. 
Rumania's strategic aim may, therefore, be set out as follows : 
She stood on the defensive against Bulgaria with small forces, 
hoping that Sarrail in the south would keep the attention of that 
enemy sufficiently occupied. With her main armies she aimed at 
cutting off the Transylvanian salient and holding the line of the 
Maros — partly, for political reasons, to free her Transylvanian 
kinsmen ; partly to give herself a short and straight defensive line 
instead of the long curve of the mountain barrier ; partly to turn 
the right wing of the Austrian forces opposed to Lechitski, and so, 
in the event of a Russian advance, to prepare a complete enemy 
debacle in eastern Hungary. The current criticism upon her action 
was that she sacrificed strategy to politics ; that, preoccupied with 
the desire to win Translyvania, she entered it prematurely, when 
she was too weak to hold it ; and that she missed a supreme chance 



i 9 16] HER STRATEGIC BLUNDER. 225 

of striking a deadly blow at the enemy by cutting the communica- 
tions between Germany and Turkey. The proper course, it was 
argued, was for Rumania to have stood on the defensive in the 
mountain passes, and thrown her main weight through the Dobrudja 
against Bulgaria and the Ottoman Railway. 

Such reasoning in the light of after events is clear and con- 
vincing ; but the problem which Rumania had to solve in those 
last days of August was by no means simple. Undoubtedly the 
desire to vindicate their decision by the occupation of Transylvania 
was strong among the members of M. Bratianu's ministry ; but 
there was some justification for Rumania's plan on military grounds 
alone. Her main enemy lay in the west, and sooner or later the 
Austro-German armies would move against her. How was she to 
hold the long curve of the hills and the many passes with slender 
forces, with a perfect railway system in front of her, and the worst 
conceivable at her back ? Every pass could be turned on its 
flanks, and the German Alpine troops would find a way over the 
goat tracks.* For the moment she had a great chance. The 
enemy was hotly engaged farther north, and there was nothing in 
Transylvania but a few weak divisions. She had the initiative, 
and the advantage of surprise ; if she could once reach the line of 
the middle Maros she would have won a strong strategical position, 
far better for defence than the line of the frontier, and she would 
have the good Austrian railways for her own use. Considered 
purely as a defensive measure, it seemed wise to cut off the difficult 
western salient and win a shorter and easier line. Moreover, such 
a plan might have also a high offensive value. Rumania at the 
moment believed with the rest of the world that Brussilov's advance 
had still far to go. She thought that presently Lechitski would be 
across the Carpathians. If that happened, the presence of her 
troops on the enemy's flank might turn a retreat into a wholesale 
disaster. Alexeiev proposed that Russian troops should be trans- 
ferred to Transylvania, and that Rumania's line of defence in the 
west should be in the foothills short of the main ranges. Rumania 
refused the advice, largely because she feared that Russia's tem- 
porary occupation of Transylvania might become permanent. 
On the other hand, she anticipated no danger from the side of 
the Dobrudja. Sarrail's offensive had been part of the bargain 
with the Allies, and, even if it did not advance far on the road to 

* The argument is stated as it may have appealed to the Rumanian General Staff. 
But as a matter of fact, with depleted forces the Rumanian army did succeed in 
holding Falkenhayn for weeks in the foothills, after he had won the main divide. 



226 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug. 

Sofia, she believed that it would keep the three Bulgarian armies 
busily engaged. Further, at first she seems to have even hoped 
that Bulgaria would refrain from a declaration of war — a political 
miscalculation in the circumstances not altogether unnatural. In 
any case, if she had to choose between two dangers, the menace 
from Transylvania loomed far the greater. To the Western world 
it seemed as if Rumania at the outset embarked on a rash offensive. 
It would be truer to say that her generals — whatever may have 
been the case with her politicians — thought principally of the best 
defence. 

They thought about it too much, and therein lay the secret of 
her failure. Her plan was not conceived in the general interests 
of the whole Alliance, but with regard chiefly to her own security. 
From the Allies' point of view the occupation of Transylvania 
mattered little ; but the cutting of the Ottoman Railway would 
have struck deep at the roots of German power. Had Rumania 
played the " long game " she would have risked everything in the 
west, and struck hard from the Dobrudja at the German highway 
to the east. It is difficult to believe that she would not have suc- 
ceeded, and the blow would have altered the whole course of the 
campaign in Eastern Europe. For her the bold path would also have 
been the path of safety. " He that saveth his life shall lose it," 
is a maxim not only of religion but of war. 

I. 

The breach with Austria found three Rumanian armies waiting 
to cross the Transylvanian frontier. The First Army, under Gen- 
eral Culcer, was the left wing of the invasion, and its front of 120 
miles extended from Orsova to east of the Rotherthurm Pass. 
Obviously half a dozen divisions could not operate continuously 
on such a front, so the advance fell into three groups — the left 
against the Orsova-Mehadia railway, the central against Hatsze£ 
by way of the Vulkan Pass, and the right through the Rotherthurm 
Pass against Hermannstadt. East of the First Army lay the 
Second Army, under General Averescu, the ablest of Rumanian 
generals, who had risen from the ranks to be Chief of Staff in the 
invasion of Bulgaria in 19 13. Averescu's force extended as far 
north as the Oitoz Pass, and was the main army of assault, whose 
object was the seizure of the central Maros valley, assisted by the 
flanking forces on the south. North of Averescu lay the Army of 
the North, the Fourth Army, under General Presan, whose right 



igi6] TRANSYLVANIA ENTERED. 227 

wing was in touch with Lechitski's left in the Dorna Watra region. 
The Third Army guarded the Danube and the Dobrudja frontier. 

At the moment the Austrian strength in Transylvania was small 
— five divisions, under General von Arz von Straussenberg. Nor 
was their quality high, for they consisted partly of Landwehr and 
partly of troops which had suffered severely in Brussilov's attack. 
The Rumanians, strung out on a 400-mile frontier, and advancing 
through passes separated often by forty miles of rocky mountain, 
were obviously in a precarious position against a strong enemy. 
Their hope of success was to break through the feeble resistance 
speedily, and win their objective before the enemy could gather 
his supports. If Rumania was to succeed, she must succeed at 
once, or, with her poor communications and widely scattered units, 
she would find herself checked on a line where she could not abide. 

The Rumanian armies were in motion on the evening of 27th 
August, and next day were pouring across the passes towards the 
frontier railway in the upper glens of the Maros and the Aluta. 
They moved fast, and found little opposition. In the Tomos Pass 
a regiment drawn from the Magyars of Transylvania offered some 
resistance, but was driven in with heavy losses. In the Tolgyes a 
Czech regiment went over bodily to the invader. During that 
week the bulletins posted up in Bucharest were cheerful reading. 
On 29th August the town of Kezdi Vasarhely, west of the Oitoz 
Pass, was occupied, as well as Kronstadt, north of the Predeal, 
and Petroseny, north of the Vulkan. This gave them most of the 
upper Aluta valley, and the lands held by the Saxon and Magyar 
immigrants. On 2nd September, on the extreme right, a column, 
descending from the Tolgyes Pass, occupied the town of Borsok, 
and sent out cavalry patrols to get in touch with Lechitski on the 
Bukovina front. On the 4th the Rumanians, advancing from the 
Rotherthurm Pass, were close upon the important town of Hermann- 
stadt. On the same day the advance from the right over the Bekas 
Pass reached the frontier railway. By the 9th, from Toplitza 
southward the whole frontier valley, between the outer and inner 
walls of Transylvania, was in Rumanian hands. Next day Her- 
mannstadt was evacuated, and the enemy withdrew to the northern 
hills. The advance was slowest just north of the Vulkan Pass, 
where the defence fought hard for the vital junction of Hatszeg, 
but by 1 2th September three-fourths of the distance had been 
covered by the invader. On the extreme left a Rumanian division 
had carried the Cerna line, and entered Orsova. Within a fort- 
night from the declaration of war the Saxon and Magyar peoples 



228 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

of south eastern Transylvania were in full flight westward ; the 
invasion had penetrated in some places to a depth of fifty miles ; 
all the passes, the strategic frontier railway, and most of the frontier 
towns had been occupied, and nearly a quarter of the country was 
in Rumanian possession. 

It was a dazzling success ; but it was fairy gold which could 
not endure. The enemy had fallen back upon a shorter and safer 
line, and the real struggle had not begun. The Rumanians, with 
their armies and groups far apart and often unable to communicate, 
were immeshed in a difficult country of divergent valleys, with many 
strong positions to take before they reached the comparative security 
of the middle Maros. Moreover, the enemy was preparing a deadly 
counter-stroke, though the invaders, with hardly an airplane to 
serve their needs, were ignorant of his preparations. As early as 
29th July a plan had been agreed upon, for which Germany under- 
took to provide five infantry and two cavalry divisions. When 
Falkenhayn ceased to be Chief of the General Staff, the Emperor 
had announced that he was destined presently to take up an im- 
portant command. This command was the new Austro-German IX. 
Army, even now assembling in the lower Maros valley. It was 
intended to strike hard at the left of the straggling Rumanian front, 
and open the passes leading to the Wallachian plain. Another army 
under Mackensen was being assembled south of the Danube to 
clear the Dobrudja of the enemy, and be ready, when Falkenhayn 
had stormed the passes, to cross the river and join hands with him 
in an enveloping movement upon Bucharest. At first Conrad von 
Hoetzendorff would have brought Mackensen directly across the 
Danube against the Rumanian capital, but Falkenhayn insisted 
that the Dobrudja must first be won, and he was supported by 
Ludendorff and Hindenburg. It was a bold and subtle scheme, 
the true type of that offensive which is the best defence, and it 
was based upon a correct judgment of Rumania's weakness and 
Russia's preoccupations. Its success was certain from the moment 
when the main forces of Rumania were poured across the Car- 
pathians rather than over the Dobrudja frontier. 

The first move came from Mackensen. He was in the Balkans 
when Rumania declared war, and during the four days which 
elapsed before Bulgaria followed suit he had concentrated his mixed 
forces with unprecedented speed. He could count on three Bulgarian 
infantry divisions, two Bulgarian cavalry divisions, and the better 
part of a German corps, while two Turkish divisions were on their 



1916] MACKENSEN IN THE DOBRUDJA. 229 

way to reinforce him. Above all, he disposed of a far greater weight 
of artillery than his opponents. The problem before him had the 
simplicity of an illustration to a staff lecture on strategy. The new 
frontier in the Dobrudja was 100 miles long. But the Dobrudja 
narrows as it runs northward, and it is only thirty miles wide where 
the main line runs from the bridge of Tchernavoda to Constanza. 
Every mile he advanced, therefore, made his front shorter. Further, 
if he could cut off the Rumanian bridgeheads at Turtukai and Silis- 
tria, he would get rid of any danger of a flank attack on Bulgaria 
across the Danube. He would advance with his flanks resting 
securely on the river and the sea. If he could win the Tcherna- 
voda-Constanza line, he would be master of all the Dobrudja, and 
would cut off Rumania from any connection with Russia by sea. 
Finally, the Dobrudja won, he would have a safe starting-point 
for the passage of the Danube and the flanking movement against 
Bucharest. 

On 1st September Bulgarian troops crossed the Dobrudja border, 
striking on the eastern flank against the railway which links 
Dobritch and Baltchik. The Rumanian frontier guards fell back, 
and on the 4th the enemy had Dobritch, Baltchik, and Kavarna. 
This gave Mackensen a good strategic front on his right, and he 
proceeded to wheel his left against Turtukai and Silistria. Each 
of these places was held by an isolated Rumanian division. Had 
Rumania possessed an adequate air service the perils of Mackensen's 
movement would have been discerned, and the divisions withdrawn. 
But only the German armies had " eyes." 

Turtukai was little more than a large village, and owed its 
importance solely to the ferry across the Danube between it and 
Oltenitza, which stands on a tongue of hard ground between the 
marshes of the northern bank and is the starting-point of a road 
to Bucharest. Since 1913, when it became a frontier post, it had 
been provided with extensive barracks, and defended by forts and 
entrenchments. On 2nd September two Bulgarian divisions ad- 
vanced from the south against the forts, while a Bulgarian-German 
force, with heavy guns, came down the river from the west by the 
Rustchuk road. By the morning of the 5th the place was invested, 
and that evening an attempt by the general commanding at Silistria 
to send supports was easily frustrated. Next day, the 6th, the 
garrison of Turtukai was compelled to surrender, and 100 guns and 
the better part of two infantry divisions fell into Mackensen's 
hands. It was a serious disaster for Rumar ia to suffer on the tenth 
day of her campaign. 



230 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

The detachment at Silistria, warned by the fate of Turtukai, 
did not linger. The place was evacuated, and on o,th September 
was occupied by the Bulgarians. Mackensen's problem was now 
to bring up his centre to the level of his left wing, and to form a 
front on the line Silistria-Dobritch-Kavarna. This was presently 
accomplished, and once more he swung forward his left, till on the 
nth he held the front Karakioi-Alexandria-Kara Agach. Here 
the Rumanian resistance stiffened ; but the German general 
pressed on, till, on the 16th, he was in contact with the main 
Rumanian position a dozen miles south of the Tchernavoda rail- 
way, running from Rashova, on the Danube, to Tuzla, on the 
Black Sea. 

Rumania, engrossed in her Carpathian advance, had perforce 
to turn her attention to a menace which she had ruled out as 
unlikely. She saw her gains of 1913 disappearing, and her com- 
munications with her main seaport in jeopardy. The measures 
she took to meet the crisis showed her bewilderment. Three 
divisions were hurried eastward from the Transylvanian front, and 
Averescu was recalled from the command of the Second Army to 
take charge of the Army of the Danube. The Russian general 
Zayonchovski was placed in command of the whole defence, and the 
Russian contingent present included a division composed of Southern 
Slavs taken prisoner by Russia, who had asked to be led against 
the enemies of their race. The Russo-Rumanian army in the 
Dobrudja was now concentrated, not so much by any design of 
its commander as because one of its outlying divisions had been 
destroyed and two more driven back upon it. The opposing forces 
were approximately equal in numbers, and the Rumanians were 
fighting on interior lines with slightly the better communications 
behind them. This advantage, however, such as it was, was 
more than neutralized by the fact that Mackensen had many more 
guns and a far greater munitionment. 

For the moment the defence proved the stronger. The rolling 
barrens of the Dobrudja presented no obstacle to movement so 
long as the weather was dry, and Mackensen was in a hurry to win 
his objective before the weather broke. On 16th September he 
struck with his left, and for four days there was bitter fighting, 
during which Zayonchovski held his ground. On the 20th the 
latter received reinforcements and opened a counter-offensive 
against the enemy's right in the neighbourhood of Toprosari, east 
of the Dobritch-Megidia railway. By the 23rd Mackensen was 
forced back at least ten miles behind the line which he had 



igi6] FALKENHAYN ADVANCES. 231 

held on 14th September. It was a fine achievement, and the 
heroic Southern Slav division played no small part in it. It is 
clear that Mackensen's initial supply of shells had run short, and 
that in ordinary infantry fighting his men were not the superiors 
of the defending force. But he had the means to procure a further 
stock, and his opponents had none. Had Zayonchovski had 
reserves to fling in at the critical moment, it is possible that he might 
have turned the retreat into a rout, pushed the enemy beyond the 
Dobrudja border, and carried an offensive far into Bulgaria. But 
his men were weary, and he had no supports. He was compelled 
to wait on Mackensen's next move, in the painful knowledge that 
though his enemy had failed as yet to attain his main objective, 
he had forced Rumania to conform to his strategy, had nullified 
two avenues of communication for a Dobrudja campaign, and had 
compelled at a critical moment the weakening of the Transylvanian 
front. 

For in Transylvania the skies were already darkening. The 
two northern armies, indeed, still continued to progress after the 
middle of September. Presan's army advanced from the glen of 
the upper Maros over the Gorgeny mountains, and approached the 
upper Kokel valley, with its important railway line. The Second 
Army — now under General Crainiceanu — crossed the Geisterwald, 
and on the 16th took the historic town of Fogaras on the Aluta. 
But the First Army, engaged around Hermannstadt and in the 
Striu valley on the way to Hatszeg, was already feeling the first 
effects of Falkenhayn's new concentration. 

It was commonly supposed in the West that the Teutonic 
League, being accroche on the Somme and in Galicia, would have 
no surplus troops for a Rumanian expedition. What Hindenburg 
did was precisely what he had already begun to do in the West. 
He took infantry regiments from four-regiment divisions, and 
battalions from four-battalion regiments. His main trust, new 
as ever, was in artillery, and on all the fronts, while he kept the 
guns up to strength, he provided a smaller complement of men. 
For Rumania he relied mainly on his guns, the service in which 
his opponents were weakest ; but he also provided Falkenhayn 
with some admirable infantry units. The northern sector, facing 
the Rumanian Fourth Army, was taken over by the right wing of 
the Austrian VII. Army, and the Rumanian First and Second 
Armies were faced by the Austrian I. Army, under von Arz, and 
Falkenhayn's new IX. Army. The latter had with it the Alpine 



232 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

Corps, which had hitherto been with the Imperial Crown Prince at 
Verdun — men drawn from the Bavarian Highlands, and familiar 
with every branch of mountain fighting. 

General Coanda, commanding that part of the First Rumanian 
Army which was operating west of the Vulkan Pass, was getting 
dangerously near to Hatszeg and the main line from the Austrian 
bases ; so on him fell the first brunt of the German counter-attack. 
He was now astride the Striu valley, and on 15th September he 
encountered a German force under the Bavarian general, von 
Staabs. Coanda, after a gallant fight, made a skilful retirement. 
The Hatszeg range of mountains lay between him and the frontier, 
and the railway by which he retreated circled round the eastern end 
of the range, and then turned south to the Vulkan Pass. Pivoting 
upon his left, he resisted the effort of von Staabs to outflank him in 
the Hatszeg mountains, and swung his front round parallel to the 
frontier. On the 20th he evacuated Petroseny, and by the 22nd 
his right was back at the Vulkan Pass. That night he counter- 
attacked, and took many prisoners, while his left threatened to 
cut the German railway communications. Staabs was forced back 
to a position astride the Striu valley at Merisor, and his gains 
of the week were lost. Coanda maintained his ground till the 
disastrous events farther east compelled him to fall back through 
the Vulkan into Wallachia. 

Falkenhayn's main thrust was delivered against the section 
of the First Army known as the " Aluta Group," which at the 
moment held a line from Porumbacu in the Aluta valley, by the 
heights north of Hermannstadt, to Orlat in the tributary valley 
of the Sibiu. This, the right of the First Army, was separated by 
a space of some fifteen miles from the left of the Second Army near 
Fogaras. Ten miles of rough mountain lay between it and the 
frontier range ; it had no supports in flank, and it had no rearguard 
to speak of at the Rotherthurm Pass. The position was fated to 
be turned, and Falkenhayn grasped the opportunity. He disposed 
his forces in three columns. The western, consisting of the Bavarian 
Alpine Corps, was directed to cross the intervening hills, and cut 
the line of retreat through the Rotherthurm Pass ; the eastern to 
march through the gap between the First and Second Armies ; 
and the central to attack in front the line Orlat-Porumbacu. 

The Bavarian Jagers, under General Krafft von Delmensingen, 
started on the 22nd, and, crossing ridges 5,000 feet high, reached 
the southern base of Mount Cindrelul on the night of the 23rd. 
After that their path became more difficult, and they had several 



1916] THE ROTHERTHURM PASS. 233 

encounters with Rumanian pickets ; but by the 26th they were 
close to the Rotherthurm Pass. That day they attacked the pass, 
won both its ends and the adjoining peaks, and cut the railway 
line from Hermannstadt to Wallachia. They took large quantities 
of material on its way to the Rumanian forces, and on a rock at 
the Rumanian end of the pass clamped great letters of iron com- 
memorating their success. It was an operation which for its speed 
and secrecy well deserved the grandiose memorial. 

Had the rest of Falkenhayn's scheme proceeded with the pre- 
cision of the part entrusted to the Bavarians, the Aluta group must 
have suffered complete destruction. His left succeeded in cutting 
any communication with the Second Army by forcing the passage 
of the Aluta east of Porumbacu, but it failed to execute a true 
flanking movement. On the 26th, the day the Rotherthurm Pass 
fell, the main German force opened a furious bombardment on the 
Rumanian front at Hermannstadt. The Rumanians were now 
aware of their imminent danger, and they met the crisis in the 
spirit of soldiers. Since the Rotherthurm Pass was closed to them, 
they must retreat south-eastward and cross the frontier range by 
goat paths and difficult saddles. To cover such a retreat, the 
rearguards offered a stout resistance, and every village was the 
scene of bitter fighting. Next day their main force was at Talmesh, 
and during the following week they fought their way back over the 
border crest. The Second Army did what it could by an advance 
west to Porumbacu, and a contingent from Wallachia kept the 
Bavarians busy in the Rotherthurm Pass. The retiring troops 
lost heavily, but the amazing thing is that their losses were not 
greater. The Germans claimed no more than 3,000 prisoners and 
thirteen guns, and the main booty was laden wagons and rolling- 
stock intercepted on the Hermannstadt railway. It was faulty 
generalship which led to the surprise of 26th September, but both 
leaders and men showed at their best in their efforts to retrieve the 
disaster. Hermannstadt was an undeniable defeat, but it was 
never a rout, and the retreat over the range will rank as one of the 
most honourable achievements in the story of Rumanian arms. 

But Falkenhayn had won his end. He was now free to turn 
eastward against the flank of the Second Army. Crainiceanu was 
pushing towards Schassburg in spite of the misfortunes of his 
western neighbours, and the Fourth Army was moving down the 
valley of the Great Kokel towards the same objective. These 
operations were admirably conducted, and had they taken place 
at the beginning of September instead of at its close, the line of the 



234 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug. 

central Maros might have been won. On 3rd October the position 
occupied was astride the valleys of the two Kokels, and within a 
dozen miles of both Schassburg and Maros Vasarhely. It was the 
high-water mark of Rumanian success in Transylvania, for on 4th 
October Falkenhayn's sweep to the east had begun, and Fogaras 
was evacuated. The pressure proved irresistible, and the Second 
and Fourth Armies began to fall back on divergent lines to the 
frontier, the former towards the Torzburg and Buzeu Passes, the 
latter towards the Gyimes and the Oitoz. 

On 6th October the Bucharest official reports for the first time 
abandoned their tone of confidence, and announced that " in the 
south of Transylvania the Rumanian army is retiring before superior 
forces." The retirement was about to become universal. The tide 
had turned, the invasion had ended in failure, and everywhere, 
except in the extreme north, Rumania was being forced back to 
defend her frontier passes. South of the Rotherthurm, indeed, the 
campaign was already being fought on Rumanian soil. 



II. 

The closing stages of Brussilov's attack in the north had so 
vital an influence on the Rumanian campaign, that they may be 
most logically grouped with it. Stanislau fell on 10th August, 
and by the 15th Bothmer's army had drawn back towards the 
Zlota Lipa. The first two phases of Brussilov's advance had been 
crowned by a brilliant success. The Russian offensive had, indeed, 
attained its main object, since two Austrian armies had been shat- 
tered, over 350,000 prisoners taken, and little short of a million 
men put out of action. There remained six weeks of good cam- 
paigning weather in which to complete the work begun on the 4th 
of June by the taking of some enemy key-point like Kovel or Lem- 
berg. The past two months seemed to warrant such hopes, and 
the entry of Rumania into the war promised a grave distraction 
for Hindenburg on his southern flank. 

But Germany had not been slow to perceive and prepare against 
the danger. The whole of the Eastern commands had been 
transformed. The Archduke Charles took formal charge of the 
forces against Rumania and his former group passed to Boehm- 
Ermolli, the supreme direction of all troops north of the Car- 
pathians being vested in German Headquarters. The de facto 
German control, which had existed since the first day of war, was 
now officially proclaimed and extended to the smallest details. 



1916] BRUSSILOV'S THRUST FOR LEMBERG. 235 

The Austrian regiments were moved about like pawns on a chess- 
board, without regard to the wishes of their nominal commanders. 
They did not complain, for the Prussian handling was efficient, 
and that of their own leaders had been chaotic. Now, at any rate, 
they were decently fed, and their transport well organized ; but 
they perceived that they were regarded by their new masters as 
mere " cannon fodder," and their love did not increase for their 
allies. " We are beasts to be sent to slaughter," wrote one Austrian 
officer. " When it is necessary to attack we go in front. When 
enough of us are killed, the Germans advance under cover of our 
dead." But till the moment of need arrived the cannon fodder 
was well cared for. The Magyar regiments were for the most part 
brought southward to the Transylvanian front, where they would 
be defending Hungarian territory from invasion. Everywhere 
along the depleted Austrian line German troops were introduced, 
and the German commanders, even when they had only divisional 
rank, became the true directors of operations. For the most part 
Austrians were left in charge of the corps, and from the Pripet 
marshes southward all the army commanders, with the exception 
of Bothmer, were Austrians. But both corps and army had ceased 
to be important units. The true field units were now the divisions, 
and we find, as on the Western front, that groups of divisions tended 
to replace the old corps, and groups of armies the old armies. 
Almost every group commander was a German, and it was with 
Linsingen, Bothmer, and Falkenhayn that there lay the direction 
of the Eastern campaigns. 

Brussilov's main objective in August was twofold — to push 
towards Lemberg, and to fling his left wing beyond the Carpathians 
so as to keep touch with the right of the now imminent Rumanian 
advance. This dual aim meant a dislocation of his offensive front, 
for there could be no strategic relation between the Carpathian 
campaign and that north of the Dniester. Accordingly we find 
Lechitski's Ninth Army definitely assigned to the Carpathian area, 
and given a south-west alignment, while Tcherbachev extended his 
left across the river, and took over the whole Dniester front. The 
bat + le-ground for Russia had become two self-contained terrains, 
where the forces in one could render no assistance to those in the 
other. Had Lechitski's aim been merely to form a defensive flank 
it would have been different, but he had a heavy offensive duty 
laid upon him. It is in this inevitable divergence of purpose that 
we must look for the cause of the check which Brussilov's advance 
was presently to suffer. Russia was approaching the limits of her 



236 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug. 

accumulation of reserves and munitions, and could not sustain at 
the old pitch two campaigns conducted in two wholly distinct areas. 
If Brussilov had been able to concentrate his main energies on the 
movement towards Lemberg he might well have succeeded ; if he 
had remained idle on the Zlota Lipa and put all his force into the 
Carpathian attack he might have turned the enemy flank in Tran- 
sylvania, and frustrated Falkenhayn's march on Bucharest. But 
in the middle of August the situation was still too obscure to allow 
Alexeiev to forecast the true centre of gravity, and Tcherbachev 
was committed to the advance on Halicz before the importance of 
the Carpathian flank had revealed itself. 

We left the army of Bothmer with the main feeders of its right 
wing cut by Lechitski, and with Tcherbachev across the Zlota 
Lipa north of Nizniov, and so threatening to turn its flank. 
Brussilov's new position north of the Dniester was now well estab- 
lished. His right wing on the Stokhod and his hold on Brody 
safeguarded his flanks in Volhynia, while in the south he had the 
Dniester itself to cover his swing towards Lemberg. He had three 
railways along which to advance — that from Tarnopol by Zborov 
and Krasne, that by Brzezany, and that by Halicz — all three con- 
verging on the Galician capital. It was his aim to strike at Halicz 
and Brzezany, while at the same time the army of Sakharov pushed 
south-westward from Volhynia against the northern side of Both- 
mer's salient. The immediate key-point was Halicz, the import- 
ance of which was due to a number of quite different reasons. The 
town stood on the right bank of the Dniester, commanding the 
chief road-bridge in that neighbourhood. The Stanislau-Lemberg 
railway crossed the river at Jezupol, a few miles farther down. 
If Halicz fell, then the southernmost of the lines running east 
from Lemberg was lost for the purpose of Bothmer's retirement, 
and, moreover, the valuable lateral line up the valley of the Nara- 
jovka would be rendered useless. Again, the westernmost of the 
river ravines running south to the Dniester was that of the Gnila 
Lipa. The loss of Halicz meant that this, the last strong defensive 
position before Lemberg was reached, would be turned on its right 
flank. Finally, Halicz was an important depot where large stores 
had been accumulated, stores which could not be easily moved 
in the disorganization of a general retreat. If Lemberg was to be 
saved it was clear that Halicz must stand. 

Under Tcherbachev's pressure Bothmer fell back from the 
Strypa towards the Zlota Lipa, twenty miles to the west. His 



igi6] BOTHMER'S STAND. 237 

position \v is curious, for while his centre and left were on a straight 
line, his right was bent sharply back, since the Russians, assisted 
by Lechitski's advance south of the river, had crossed the Kuro- 
piets by 8th August, and were over the Zlota Lipa close to its 
junction with the Dniester by nth August. On the 13th they 
had taken Miriampol, some ten miles from Halicz itself. Else- 
where Bothmer's retirement was more leisurely. The Russian 
right was at Tseniov on the 13th, and the centre not far from 
Zavalov. They had marched fast so long as their route lay over 
the treeless plateau just west of the Strypa, but the country be- 
came more formidable as they approached the broken hills and 
the forests around the Zlota Lipa. Moreover, Bothmer had fallen 
back upon a prepared position, and had received large reinforce- 
ments for its defence. 

By 20th August, when his retreat had definitely halted, Both- 
mer's fifty-mile front lay from south of Zborov, in the north, to 
the Dniester, east of Halicz. On his left across the Tarnopol- 
Krasne railway lay the right wing of Boehm-Ermolli's Austrian II. 
Army. Bothmer lay from Koniuchy along the river Tseniovka 
to the Zlota Lipa, at the important junction of Potutory — a line 
of marshy valley supported by the hills, half crag, half forest, 
which protected Brzezany on the east. Thence he continued down 
the broad, swampy vale of the Zlota Lipa to Zavalov, where his 
position was on the hills on the eastern bank, with Tcherbachev 
in close contact. South of Zavalov, the German-Austrian wing 
bent back at a sharp angle to form a defensive flank with the 
Dniester, for south of that the Zlota Lipa line had gone. The front 
in this area roughly followed the wooded hills south of the Zavalov- 
Halicz highway, and reached the Dniester a little west of Miriampol. 
Tcherbachev's great effort began on Tuesday, 29th August. 
He struck first against Bothmer's right centre at Zavalov, and by 
the evening had pushed it off the hills east of the Zlota Lipa, and 
forced it across the river. Next day the Russian left came into 
action towards the Dniester, and for four days the battle raged on 
a fifteen-mile front from Nosov to Miriampol. On Sunday, 3rd 
September, the enemy's resistance broke. Jezupol with its railway 
bridge fell to the Russian extreme left, and there was desperate 
fighting among the wooded hills south of the Halicz-Zavalov high- 
road. Late in the day Bothmer's defensive flank was pierced, 
with the result that the whole of his right and right centre 
had to retreat in some confusion. The Russian cavalry were sent 
in, and over 4,000 prisoners were taken. Next day, 4th September, 



238 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

the Russian centre forced the passage of the Zlota Lipa, routing 
a Turkish division at Bozhykov, while in the south the railway 
between Jezupol and Halicz was taken, and the banks of the Gnila 
Lipa reached. Bothmer had now a singular line. He still pos- 
sessed the town of Halicz, but not the station on the north bank 
of the Dniester. Thence his front followed the valley of the Nara- 
jovka to Lipnitsa Dolna, and then struck almost due east across 
wooded hills to the Zlota Lipa. North of that it followed the 
valley of the Tseniovka to Zborov and Pluhov. The Russian drive 
towards Halicz had thus made of Brzezany a fairly pronounced 
salient, a sub-salient, so to speak, or under feature of the greater 
salient formed by Sakharov's possession of Brody and Tcher- 
bachev's position outside Halicz. 

The situation was critical, and reinforcements were hurried up 
to Bothmer's front. He got back what was left of the 3rd Guard 
Division and two other German divisions from the Somme, while 
his Austrian troops were also added to, so that presently his army 
was stronger than it had ever been since its creation — seven 
German divisions and fragments of two others, three and a half 
Austrian, and two Turkish. Moreover, these divisions had mostly 
been brought up to strength, so that the fifty miles of front were 
held with not less than a quarter of a million men — a density 
familiar in the West, but novel in the looser fighting of the Eastern 
battle-ground. 

Meantime Tcherbachev's right had begun its struggle for Brze- 
zany. On Friday, 1st September, he attacked on the east bank of 
the Tseniovka, some half-dozen miles from Brzezany, and the 
battle extended south past the junction of Potutory. Between 
the Tseniovka and the Zlota Lipa stood a ridge called Lysonia, 
which dominated Brzezany. On 2nd September the Russian guns 
bombarded the enemy position on this height, and played havoc 
with the crumbling outcrops of rock which lined the crest like a 
South African kranz. Next day the infantry attacked across the 
Tseniovka, and carried the ridges which the artillery had rendered 
untenable. For a moment it looked as if Brzezany must fall. 
But the place was too vital for the Germans to relinquish it, and 
a counter-attack by fresh Bavarian troops early on the morning 
of 4th September won back most of the Lysonia crest. The Rus- 
sians remained west of the Tseniovka, but they no longer held 
the high ground. In the four days' fighting they had taken nearly 
3,000 prisoners. Then during the rest of September the battle 
stagnated, though Potutory fell into Russian hands. It was a 



i 9 r6] END OF RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE. 239 

clear stalemate ; both sides were so evenly matched that progress 
was permitted to neither. 

On 5th September Tcherbachev made a bold bid for Halicz. 
He strengthened his hold on the east bank of the Gnila Lipa and 
the adjacent northern shore of the Dniester. Bothmer's right 
wing fell back, blowing up the Halicz bridge, and the town itself 
was cleared of military stores, and the civil population evacuated. 
But no progress was possible in this direction until the German 
centre on the Narajovka was broken. On 7th September Tcher- 
bachev had crossed the Narajovka south of Lipnitsa Dolna, win- 
ning a height on the west bank. His position there now formed 
a sharp salient, which it was the endeavour of the Russians to 
enlarge and the Germans to destroy. All through September and 
well into October the struggle continued on the line of this little 
river, and the Russian attack, though gallantly sustained, was 
unable to make any real progress. The third stage of Brussilov's 
offensive perished in the early days of October from sheer in- 
anition. It had no longer the weight of artillery and trained 
reserves to succeed. 

The failure of the Podolian campaign made fruitless Sakharov's 
supplementary thrust from Volhynia. It was directed south- 
westward from the Sviniukhy-Bludov line on a front of some six 
miles in a district of forests and marshy valleys. Ground was 
gained in the first fight on 1st September, and in the second main 
action of 20th September. But Tcherbachev's check made its 
success difficult, and deprived of strategic value even such advance 
as was made. October saw the Volhynian terrain reduced to the 
stagnation of the Halicz front. 

There remains the final section of this third phase of Brussilov's 
offensive — the Carpathians, where Lechitski faced the Austrian 
III. and VII. Armies. The entry of Rumania gave this area a very 
real importance, but Russia, deeply involved farther north, was 
unable, as we have seen, to increase her forces there to the strength 
which the strategic position demanded. On 15th August the 
crest of the Jablonitza Pass was won, and by the 17th the Rus- 
sians were holding part of Mount Kapul and the Kirilibaba Pass, 
at the southern apex of the Bukovina. The accession of Rumania 
on 27th August gave Lechitski a new orientation, and henceforward 
his main efforts were directed against the passes of the eastern 
Carpathians in order to co-operate with his allies. His front ex- 
tended for nearly one hundred miles from north of the Jablonitza 



240 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

to Dorna Watra. At first this mountain warfare went well. Be- 
tween 30th August and 6th September Lechitski reported the 
capture of 15 officers, 1,889 other ranks, 2 mountain guns, and 
26 machine guns. On Monday, nth September, his left in the 
Dorna Watra region got into touch with the Rumanian right. 
On that day, too, Mount Kapul was carried in its entirety, a peak 
5,000 feet high above the Kirlibaba Pass, and nearly a thousand 
prisoners were taken. During these days the Rumanians were 
pouring into Transylvania, and about the 22nd had reached the 
farthest limit of their advance. Lechitski formed their defensive 
flank ; but he could do little more, for about the middle of Sep- 
tember the snow began to fall and crippled his movements among 
the high peaks, and he had never that superiority in men and 
guns which would have allowed him to win the western debouch- 
ments of the passes and drive down on the left rear of the Austrian 
defence in Transylvania. 

When the tide of Rumanian invasion turned, and Falkenhayn 
began his sweep across the Carpathians, Russia's position in the 
theatre of her summer triumphs, while safe against attacks, did 
not promise any further success in the near future. Tcherbachev 
was held at Halicz, on the Narajovka, and opposite Brzezany, 
and the offensive in Volhynia had come to nothing. Lechitski 
had captured various outlying parts of the mountain barrier be- 
tween Hungary and the Bukovina, but he had not broken the 
defence. Germany's immense effort had for the moment closed 
the gaps in that Austrian front which in July had seemed to be 
crumbling. To stabilize their line certain changes were made in 
the Russian dispositions. A new " Special Army," consisting 
mainly of the Guard Corps, was formed under Gourko, and placed 
on Brussilov's right wing, and the Eighth Army was moved south- 
ward between the Seventh and the Ninth. 

Russia entered upon the winter with very different prospects 
from those which had faced her a year before. Then she lay weary 
at the end of her great retreat ; now she had behind her a summer 
of successes which, if they had cost her a million men, had yet 
inflicted irreparable losses upon her enemies, and had proved con- 
clusively that, given anything like a fair munitionment, she could 
break the front of the invader. The grandiose schemes proclaimed 
a year before of the capture of Petrograd and Kiev and Odessa 
had faded out of the air. She was secure on her front, and seemed 
to need only a period of recuperation, during which she could 
complete the training of her reserves and accumulate supplies of 



1916] OMENS FOR THE WINTER. 241 

shells, in order to resume her deadly offensive. As before, her 
problems centred in munitions. There was still no easy way of 
access for these from her Western Allies. Archangel was still the 
neck of the bottle, though the new Murman line from the ice-free 
port of Alexandrovsk was in sight of completion, and she had 
enormously increased her domestic production. But her moral 
gains were conspicuous, and her troops had won confidence in 
themselves and their commanders. Their resolution on the defen- 
sive was now supplemented by that assurance of prowess in attack 
which is necessary to produce the true fighting edge. 

There were, indeed, two dark spots in her outlook. The suc- 
cess of the summer had weakened that political unanimity which 
had characterized the dark days of the Retreat. Reactionary 
elements appeared in the ministerial appointments, and the Duma 
and the Government drew apart. The omens in Russian internal 
politics in the autumn of 19 16 were not propitious for a harmoni- 
ous winter. In the second place, it was clear that Germany would 
struggle desperately to put Rumania out of action, and to make 
her share the fate of Serbia and Belgium. Succour could come 
only from Russia, for the Allies at Salonika were too weak and 
too far away to affect the situation. In that event Alexeiev might 
find himself involved in a defensive campaign in Wallachia and 
Moldavia — a campaign which lay outside his plans — and would 
spend in a barren terrain the strength which he wished to reserve 
for the spring advance. Germany might follow on the Eastern 
front the policy which in the spring of 1916 she had followed in 
the West, and the line of the Rumanian Sereth might play the part 
of Verdun. 

III. 

The check to Brussilov's advance, more especially the un- 
success of his left wing, was soon to be followed by disastrous con- 
sequences to the Rumanian offensive. If Bothmer and Kirchbach 
could hold their opponents among the Dniester canons and the 
Carpathian defiles, the way was clear for Falkenhayn to force 
the weak armies of the invader back over the mountains, and 
to use the awkward strategic position of the country for a crushing 
counter-attack. We have seen that the situation on 3rd October 
might be regarded as the high-water mark of Rumania's success. 
Thereafter the decline began, like the thaw of a snowfield in spring 
■ — a slow shrinkage and declension, which grew quicker as it neared 
the day of cataclysm. 



242 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct. 

At first Falkenhayn's counter-thrust was well parried. As the 
enemy pushed against the left flank of the Second Army, 
Crainiceanu fell back from Fogaras on 4th October, his line of 
retreat being towards Kronstadt and the Torzburg, Predeal, and 
Buzeu Passes. The Fourth Army must inevitably lose connection 
with the Second, for its route of retirement was the eastern passes 
leading into Moldavia. On the night of 5th October the Geister- 
wald was lost, and the left wing of Crainiceanu's army was forced 
back to the frontier mountains. On the 7th the enemy was in 
Kronstadt, though the place was not finally evacuated without 
some stubborn street fighting by the Rumanian rearguards. 
Three days later the Rumanian Second Army was everywhere 
back at the Transylvanian gates of the passes. Presan's Fourth 
Army, though much less hardly pressed, was compelled to con- 
form, and on the same day stood close to the frontier on the upper 
streams of the Maros and the Aluta. 

The great adventure was over, and Rumania was now forced 
to a hopeless defence. She had taken over 15,000 prisoners during 
her six weeks' attack, but beyond that had gained nothing ; while 
the strength of her half-trained soldiery had been gravely tried by 
the Transylvanian raid. Bad as her intelligence system was, she 
had by this time some inkling of the strength and of the intentions 
of the enemy, and she braced herself resolutely to meet them. 
Averescu was recalled from the Dobrudja, and placed again at the 
head of the Second Army, which had imposed upon it the most 
critical part of the frontier defence. General Culcer, commanding 
the First Army, was replaced by General Dragalina, who had 
distinguished himself in the Orsova section. Moreover, General 
Berthelot had arrived in charge of a French Military Mission to 
supply the Rumanian General Staff with advice based on a long 
understanding of German methods in war. 

There could be no hesitation in Falkenhayn's mind about the 
exact nature of the task before him. He had to drive his enemies 
back to their borders, and regain control of the frontier railways. 
That done, he would be on the inside of a curve of 300 miles with 
a dozen passes to choose from, and able to strengthen rapidly 
his troops at every point ; while his opponents, with slender forces 
and no good communications for a sudden concentration, would 
have to watch all the inlets and string their armies along the outer 
line of the Transylvanian salient. Moreover, there was Mackensen 
in the Dobrudja, held tight for the moment, but likely, as the 
stress in the west increased, to free himself from his difficulties. 



igi6] THE FORCING OF THE PASSES. 243 

and win a line which he could hold lightly, thereby releasing his 
main troops to cross the Danube and take Rumania in flank. 
Once Rumania had failed to occupy the central Maros valley, 
and Falkenhayn's IX. Army had taken the field, it was obvious 
that the Austro-Germans had all the cards in their hands. The 
only drawback lay in the weather. Snow had begun to fall in 
the Carpathians before the end of September, and it was possible 
that winter in the mountains might interfere with the transit of 
the great guns and their full munitionment. What was to be 
done must be done quickly. 

To win a complete victory at the earliest possible moment it 
was necessary to force the passes in the centre of the arc of frontier 
— the passes, that is to say, between the Torzburg and the Buzeu. 
If that had been achieved and the railway junctions of Ploeshti 
and Buzeu seized, Rumania would have been split in two, Wal- 
lachia would have been separated from Moldavia, and the Ru- 
manian First Army and a large part of the Second would have 
been cut off. It would have given Falkenhayn the great oil region 
before it could be destroyed, and the Wallachian harvest before 
there was time to remove it. He therefore began by driving hard 
against the passes south of Kronstadt, while Mackensen supported 
him by an advance in the Dobrudja. The Rumanian Staff were 
alive to the danger. They successfully held the eastern outlets of 
the central passes, and when the line gave way it was farther 
west, where the consequences, serious as they were, proved less 
disastrous than those which would have followed upon an early 
debouchment from the Torzburg and Predeal Passes. But gallant 
as the defence showed itself, it was doomed from the start. It 
might avert the worst results, but it could do no more than play 
for time. For a strong concentration, if it held the central passes, 
involved the weakening of, or at any rate the inability to reinforce, 
the defence in north-western Wallachia. The gates into Rumania 
were opened when, towards the close of September, her troops came 
to a standstill far beyond her borders before they had reached the 
only objective that spelled security. 

We have seen that south of Kronstadt three chief passes, the 
Torzburg, Predeal, and Buzeu, and two lesser ones, the Altschanz 
and Bratocea, open into the Wallachian foothills. These passes 
are narrow denies, and on the Wallachian side it is many miles 
before the glens of the rivers, bounded by steep, pine-clad hills, 
open out into the plains. For obvious reasons it was necessary 
for the Rumanians to fight as near as possible to their railheads. 



244 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct 

so they did not attempt to stand on the main divide, but had 
their principal defensive positions nearer the southern debouch- 
ments. With the loss of many prisoners and a few guns, by the 
middle of October they had been forced back through most of 
the passes. The first blow was delivered at the Torzburg. By 
14th October the defence was on the main road from Kronstadt 
to Kampolung, six miles inside the frontier. Here the enemy, 
failing to force the road by a frontal attack, devoted himself to 
outflanking movements by the subsidiary valley of the Dambo- 
vitsa on the east, and Lireshti on the west. He made no progress, 
and the Rumanians stood firm in front of Kampolung, on the line 
Lireshti-Dragoslavele. Farther east, the railway pass of the Pre- 
deal was the scene of severe fighting. The frontier ridge was won 
by Falkenhayn as early as 14th October, and the border town of 
Predeal was destroyed by shell fire. It fell on 25th October, and, 
fighting for every mile, the Rumanians fell back through the wooded 
glens towards the summer resort of Sinaia. In this section the 
defence was especially brilliant, and by the first days of November 
the enemy, though he had carried the main range and some of 
the lateral foothills, had not advanced more than four miles inside 
the frontier. Meantime Presan and the Fourth Army were holding 
with equal resolution the gates of Moldavia. He had been com- 
pelled to divide his forces into two detachments, one watching the 
Bekas and Tolgyes Passes and the routes to the upper Bistritza 
valley, and the other holding the railway pass of Gyimes and the 
subsidiary Uz and Oitoz Passes, which give access to Okna. The 
first assaults failed to carry the last-named passes, but by 17th 
October the enemy was through the Gyimes and some seven miles 
inside the frontier down the Trotus valley. There he was held 
and driven back, and by the first days of November had made no 
headway in this section. Farther north Presan's right wing was 
no less successful. It held the frontier between the Tolgyes and 
the Bekas, till it was relieved in early November by an extension 
southward of Lechitski's left. From that date the Rumanian 
front was bounded by the Gyimes Pass, and the defence of north- 
west Moldavia was handed over to that stubborn Russian corps 
which had been the spearhead of Lechitski in the summer campaign 
in the Bukovina. Its counter-attack drove the enemy back across 
the Tolgyes, and in this section regained the initiative. 

Meantime a serious situation had begun to develop in the 
Dobrudja. We have seen that by 24th September Mackensen's 
advance had been checked, and he had been driven south some 



t 9 i6] FALL OF CONSTANZA. 245 

fifteen miles from the line Rashova-Tuzla. There for nearly a 
month little happened. At one or two points the Rumanians 
pushed the enemy farther back and took prisoners, and there was 
an attempt by each side to cross the Danube. The German effort 
was made on 30th September at Corabia, a port and railhead on 
the Rumanian bank of the Danube, some miles west of the point 
where the Aluta enters the main stream. The port was bom- 
barded and a few small craft sunk, but the landing came to nothing. 
The Rumanian attempt next day was more ambitious. It took 
place at Rahovo, a little east of Rustchuk, where there is an island 
on the north side of the river. Some fifteen battalions crossed — 
too large a force for a mere reconnaissance — and occupied several 
villages and a tract of land some ten miles wide and four deep. 
The attacking force was weak in artillery, and, being assailed on 
both flanks, it was driven back across the river with consider- 
able loss. By the middle of October the pressure on the western 
frontier precluded all hopes of a Russo-Rumanian offensive in the 
Dobrudja. 

But Mackensen had not been idle. He had received large 
reinforcements of guns and munitions, and had got two new divi- 
sions from Turkey and one from Germany. On 19th October, 
after a heavy preliminary bombardment, he resumed the offensive, 
especially against the Rumanian left. Tuzla fell next day, and 
on the 21st the central position of Toprosari was evacuated, while 
Mackensen's right pushed within six miles of Constanza. On the 
railway the Rumanian right-centre was driven back from Copa- 
dinu, and before night fell the Tchernavoda-Constanza railway 
had been cut some twenty miles from the coast. Constanza, 
bombarded on flank and front, could not be held. On the 22nd 
its evacuation began, and its stores of oil and wheat were burned. 
Under cover of the fire of a Russian flotilla in the Black Sea the 
Rumanian troops withdrew, and in a wild rainstorm Bulgarian 
cavalry entered the place on the 23rd. They found little booty 
except some hundreds of empty railway trucks and a few loco- 
motives. But Rumania had lost her principal seaport, and one 
of her main lines of communication with her Russian ally. Sak- 
harov, formerly in command of the Russian Eleventh Army, had 
arrived to take charge of the defence, but the Russian divisions 
were poor in discipline and fighting quality. In a stern order to 
his troops he warned them that " they had been sent to conquer, 
or at any rate to fight, and not to see who could run the fastest." 

Events now moved swiftly, for against the fire of Mackensen's 



246 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct. 

guns Sakharov's ill-supplied army could make no stand. On the 
23rd Megidia fell, the station on the line half-way between Tcher- 
navoda and Constanza, while the Rumanian right was driven 
back from Rashova. The great bridge was doomed. Constructed 
twenty years before by a French company, it was more than 1,000 
yards long, built of steel on stone piers, and carried at a height 
of one hundred feet above the river. The Rumanian bank was 
low-lying, a wide stretch of swamp and lagoon, and over the bad 
ground the railway was carried by ten miles of causeway and 
viaduct. The importance of the spot was not as a crossing-place, 
for such a crossing could be opposed by a small force on the hard 
ground about Feteshti, on the northern shore, beyond the marsh 
belt, and the invaders would have to advance by a long, open 
defile exposed for miles to gunfire. Mackensen had several better 
crossings higher up the river, and his attack on the bridge was 
only the last step in taking possession of the Constanza railway. 
Once he had secured it and driven Sakharov northwards into bad 
country with no railway communications, he could afford to en- 
trench himself on the ground he had won, and prepare to invade 
Rumania across the Danube, so soon as Falkenhayn was through 
the mountains. 

On the 25th the small Rumanian force which held the bridge 
retired across it, and blew up one of the spans. On that day the 
Bulgarians entered the town of Tchernavoda. On the 26th Sakha- 
rov was twenty-four miles north of the railway, and by the 29th he 
was on the line Ostrov-Babadag. Here the pursuit was stayed, 
and presently the counter-offensive began. But the centre of 
gravity was now in the west, where the Rumanian defence of the 
hills was beginning to crumble. 

We left Falkenhayn held at the debouchments of the central 
passes. The winter snows had begun, and it looked as if he had 
missed his stroke. But farther west the Rumanian First Army, 
holding the Rotherthurm and the Vulkan Passes, was less for- 
tunate than Averescu and the troops of the Second. From the 
Rotherthurm Pass the Aluta flows for some thirty miles in a narrow 
gorge, accompanied by a road and a railway — a gorge from its 
nature impregnable to direct assault. The southern end is the 
village of Rimnic Valcea, and fifteen miles east of the place is the 
town of Curtea de Argesh, the terminus of one of the two railways 
which ran from Piteshti to the hills. If Curtea de Argesh could be 
won by way of the Aluta and Kampolung by way of the Torzburg, 
the path would be prepared for the capture of Piteshti, the most 



i 9 i6] THE FIGHTING IN THE ALUTA VALLEY. 247 

important strategic point in Wallachia. Falkenhayn, therefore, 
aimed at Piteshti by a converging attack through the Torzburg 
and the Rotherthurm. 

The Bavarian Alpine Corps, as we have seen, secured the south- 
ern end of the Rotherthurm on 26th September. During early 
October that force prepared for the next step, and on 15th October 
began its advance in three columns. On the east a brigade was to 
cross the high Moscovul Pass, and descend the glen of the Topologu 
against Salatrucul. In the centre the Bavarians followed the road 
which runs along the ridge between the Topologu and the Aluta. 
On the west a brigade was to take the high ground of Pietroasa 
and the Veverita mountain towards the tributary glen of the 
Lotru. From the start all went ill. The eastern force by 18th 
October had reached the hills directly north of Salatrucul, when 
the Rumanians closed in on its flanks from the Aluta and Argesh 
valleys, and but for a heavy snowstorm would have wholly de- 
stroyed it. So, too, the western brigade was caught on the Pietroasa 
massif, and flung back with heavy losses. The disasters to the 
wings compelled Krafft von Delmensingen to hold up the attack 
of his Bavarian centre. 

For a week there was a respite, and then at the close of October 
the offensive was renewed. On the 28th a fresh German division 
won positions on the hills between the Aluta and the Topologu. 
By this time the Aluta group of the Rumanian First Army had 
been reinforced by some of Presan's troops from the Fourth Army, 
released by the extension of Lechitski's front ; but the enemy was 
also strengthened, and, since his campaign in the Torzburg and 
Predeal Passes was checked, and he was about to make his main 
effort through the Vulkan Pass, it was necessary to pin down the 
Aluta group to a defence which would preclude it from sending 
reinforcements westward. By 1st November the Germans had 
reached the Titeshti valley, which enters that of the Aluta from the 
east. A week later they had mastered the heights on both sides 
of the Topologu, and the massif of Cozia which commands the 
mouth of the Lotru glen. By this time events south of the Vulkan 
had compelled the Rumanians to send thither every man they could 
spare, and the Aluta group, thus weakened, was forced to fall back. 
By the middle of November the Germans had won the Aluta valley 
as far as Calimaneshti and the Topologu valley as far as Suitsi, 
and controlled the road which linked up the two places. They 
were only ten miles from the vital railhead of Curtea de Argesh. 

We come now to the section where the defence finally broke — 



248 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

the Vulkan Pass through which ran the road down the Jiu valley 
to the railhead at Targul Jiu. After beating off the attack in the 
Striu glen, the Rumanians, about the middle of October, were 
compelled to give way before the nth Bavarian Division, and 
retire through the Vulkan. The enemy advanced in four columns, 
aiming at an ultimate concentration in the Jiu valley between 
Targul Jiu and Bumbeshti. General Dragalina, now in command 
of the Rumanian First Army, had inferior forces and no reserves. 
He took his stand on the lines which the enemy had marked for 
his objective, and borrowed a detachment from the division at 
Orsova and one from the Aluta group. With great tactical skill 
he made his dispositions, and on 27th October succeeded in check- 
ing the enemy attack, and taking many prisoners. Up to 1st 
November the Rumanians advanced, and drove the enemy back 
to the mountain ravines by which he had come. This first battle 
of Targul Jiu was the most conspicuous success of the campaign, 
achieved as it was by forces inferior both in numbers and artillery. 
Unluckily it was paid for by the life of the gallant commander. 
General Dragalina died of his wounds on 9th November, and was 
succeeded in command of the First Army by General Petale, while 
the actual fighting on the Jiu was placed under General Vasilescu. 

In the beginning of November, though things had gone ill in 
the Dobrudja, the Rumanian defence in the west had succeeded 
beyond expectation. The invaders were still held in the foothills, 
and had nowhere won the debouchments to the plains. Falken- 
hayn accordingly revised his plans, and resolved to make his supreme 
effort in the Jiu valley. He knew the smallness of Vasilescu's 
force, and he knew, too, that there the lateral communications 
were worst of all, and least permitted the speedy dispatch of 
reinforcements. Accordingly General Kuhne was put in charge of 
a strong group, which included four infantry divisions, and a cavalry 
corps under Count Schmettow. Falkenhayn himself was present 
in this theatre to watch the fortunes of the new attack. To support 
it and prevent reinforcements reaching the meagre Rumanian First 
Army, Krafft von Delmensingen was ordered to press hard on the 
Aluta, and General von Morgen in the Torzburg and Predeal 
section. 

The heavy guns having been got through the passes, the new 
offensive began on 10th November with an attack by the two 
central German divisions against the position on both banks of 
the Jiu. Ground was won on the heights, and at the same time 
a German force from the west pressed into the upper Motru glen. 



ig i6] MACKENSEN CROSSES THE DANUBE. 249 

By the 13th the enemy was astride the Jiu valley some six miles 
north of Targul Jiu, and this place, the terminus of the railway 
from Crajova, fell on the 15th. The Rumanian position now lay 
from Copaceni, west of the Jiu, to the river Gilort, down whose 
valley ran the Crajova line. The situation was desperate, and 
reinforcements were hurried westward from the Aluta group. 
They were fated to arrive too late, for on 17th November the second 
battle of the Jiu was fought, and the whole Rumanian defence 
crumbled before superior numbers and a far superior weight of 
guns. Kuhne was advancing on a wide front, flinging Schmettow's 
cavalry far out on his flanks, and by the 19th he had reached 
Filiasa, the junction where the line from Targul Jiu joins the main 
railway from Bucharest to Budapest by way of Orsova. This put 
the Rumanian division at Orsova, under Colonel Anastasiu, in dire 
jeopardy. 

The retreat of the First Army was now eastward instead of 
southward. Its first hope was to prevent its left flank being turned, 
and to fall back on the pivot of the Aluta group, and hold the line 
of that river. On 21st November German troops entered Crajova, 
which the Rumanians had evacuated. Kuhne was now well into 
the Wallachian plains, and his progress became rapid. His next 
objective was the line of the Aluta, and two days later he was in 
touch with its defence on the front between Dragashani and Cara- 
calu. The attack on the centre at the railway bridge of Slatina 
failed, but Schmettow's cavalry managed to cross the river at Cara- 
calu. The position was turned, the railway bridge and the gran- 
aries of Slatina were blown up, and by the 27th the Aluta line 
was abandoned. It was not a moment too soon, for in the north 
the group of Krafft von Delmensingen was threatening the right 
flank south of the Rotherthurm Pass, and in the south the left 
flank was already turned. For on the 23rd Mackensen had begun 
to cross the Danube. 

Sakharov on 9th November had recaptured Hirshova, on the 
Danube, and pushed back Mackensen in the centre as far as Muslu. 
On that day, too, a Rumanian attack from Feteshti, on the northern 
shore of the river, gave them the riverside station of Dunarea, at 
the north end of the Tchernavoda bridge. Pushing on, by the 
middle of the month Sakharov was in position from a point on the 
Danube some seven miles north of Tchernavoda to the shore of 
the Black Sea fifteen miles north of Constanza. But he never 
reached the railway, being held by the strong lines which the enemy 
had constructed for its defence ; and before he could attack them 



250 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

in force the debacle in the west had put a further offensive in the 
Dobrudja out of the question. 

Early in November Mackensen, having entrusted the task of 
watching Sakharov to Prince Boris of Bulgaria, turned to his main 
objective, the crossing of the Danube. In late autumn the river 
is not a formidable obstacle to an army operating from the south 
bank. The stream is at its lowest — not more than ten feet deep 
between Nicopoli and Silistria, and the current is from eight to 
ten miles an hour. The south bank, as we have seen, is a high bluff 
with in many places, when the river is low, a beach beneath it ; 
while the northern shore is for the most part swamp and back- 
water. Holding the high bank, an army with modern guns could 
sweep the northern shore for three or four miles inland, and com- 
mand the narrow strips of hard ground between the marshes. In 
addition to this advantage, Mackensen had at his command a 
powerful river flotilla of monitors and gunboats, which could lie 
hidden behind the shrubby islets. So soon as the fall of Orsova 
and Turnu Severin had opened the way from the upper waters, 
long trains of barges came downstream, bringing abundant bridg- 
ing material. 

He selected for his first crossing-places Islaz, opposite the Bul- 
garian railhead of Somovit, and Sistova-Simnitza, the very place 
where the Russians had crossed in 1877. These points were chosen 
in order to turn the new Rumanian line of defence on the Aluta. 
At both places the bridging of the river would be facilitated by 
the islands in the stream ; and since the Sistova crossing in peace 
times was one of the busiest ferries on the river, there were good 
landing arrangements on both banks. On 19th November the 
preliminary German bombardment began to clear the north shore. 
A thick haze hung over the stream, and under its cover on the night 
of the 22nd-23rd the enemy river craft swarmed out from the 
shelter of the creeks and islands. In 1877 tne Russians had taken 
thirty-three days to cross ; Mackensen did the main work in 
eighteen hours. The first troops crossed in steam ferries, and when 
they had seized the opposite bank pontoon bridges were constructed 
with amazing speed. There was practically no opposition, for the 
enemy's overwhelming superiority in guns made it impossible for 
the Rumanian river guards to make even a show of resistance. 
By the 26th Mackensen was able to report that he had an army 
group under General Kosch on the northern bank ; that he had 
cleared the country for twenty miles inland ; and that his van 
was close on Alexandria. Presently at every Danube ferry the 



i 9 i6] THE ORSOVA DIVISION. 251 

enemy was crossing. Bulgarian cavalry were over the stream at 
Corabia, and in the east a Bulgarian detachment from Rustchuk 
sacked Giurgevo. 

The end had now fairly come. The Rumanian left flank on 
the Aluta was turned, and events in the north put the pivot on 
which they swung in danger. The enemy was still held at the 
Predeal, but von Morgen entered Kampolung on 29th November. 
At the same time Krafft von Delmensingen was pressing hard 
from the Rotherthurm. On the 25th he reached Rimnic Valcea, 
and on the 27th took Curtea de Argesh. On the 29th Piteshti 
fell, and the invaders' line ran by way of Dragenesti to Giurgevo 
— within thirty miles of Bucharest. 

Before this sweep the Rumanian groups of the Jiu and the 
Aluta had fallen back in fair order. But two of the frontier forces 
were in dire straits. One — the Orsova division — was already 
beyond hope. Under its gallant leader, Colonel Anastasiu, it had 
left Orsova on 25th November, and attempted to retreat south- 
eastward to the Aluta. After three weeks' wild adventures it 
reached the valley, only to find it held by the enemy. On 7th 
December, two days after the capital fell, the remnant of the 7,000 
surrendered at Caracalu, having extorted from the Germans admira- 
tion for their undaunted valour. The Kampolung group, after the 
fall of Piteshti, was compelled to move south-east over difficult 
country, and eventually reached Targovishta and the Dambovitsa 
valley, where it joined the main Rumanian forces. 

The situation now was that from the Predeal Pass eastward 
and northward the mountain position was still held, and the Rus- 
sians in the Moldavian passes were successfully counter-attacking 
the enemy. But from the Predeal westward all the passes had 
gone, the upper Argesh valley was lost, and in the south Mackensen 
had pushed between the capital and the Danube. Averescu, now 
in supreme command of the Rumanian forces, attempted one last 
stand before Bucharest. A Russian division had arrived in sup- 
port, and north-west lay what was left of the First Army. South 
and south-west Presan commanded a group formed of troops from 
what had once been the Third and Fourth Armies to hold the 
line of the lower Argesh. On 30th November the Germans forced 
the passage of the little river Nealovu, only sixteen miles from the 
capital. On 1st December Presan attempted a counter-stroke with 
the object of driving a wedge between Mackensen and the German 
centre under Kuhne. He almost succeeded, for he flung the enemy 
back over the Nealovu, taking thirty guns and 1,000 prisoners. 



252 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

Unfortunately the expected reserves came too late, and the enemy 
was reinforced before Presan could press his victory home. The 
success of ist December was changed on the 2nd and 3rd to disaster, 
and Presan's broken forces were driven in upon Bucharest. Mean- 
time farther north the remains of the First Army could not bar 
the roads down the upper Argesh and the Dambovitsa. The vital 
junction of Titu fell, and Targovishta, the border-town of the great 
oilfields, passed into enemy hands. 

Since the line of the Argesh and Dambovitsa could not be held, 
it was clear that Bucharest was doomed. In the days before the 
war the Rumanian capital ranked as one of the great fortresses of 
Europe. Around the city the land is a flat plain, open, treeless, 
and highly fertile, broken only by a slight rise between the Argesh 
and the Dambovitsa. Such country was considered ideal for a 
modern fortress, and more than thirty years ago the Rumanian 
Government accepted the suggestion of Brialmont, the Belgian 
engineer, to make of the place an entrenched camp like Antwerp. 
In those days the dreaded enemy was Russia, and Brialmont 
intended that Bucharest should be the central point for the defence 
against the Russians advancing towards the Danube, its works 
being supplemented by an entrenched line on the lower Sereth 
from Galatz to Focsani. Brialmont's forts, nineteen in number, 
were arranged in an irregular oval at a distance of from six to 
nine miles from the centre of the city, connected by a circular 
railway linked up by three junctions with the existing lines. The 
forts were of the same type as those of Liege and Namur, a mass 
of concrete covering a vaulted underground structure, and forming 
the glacis for armoured steel turrets mounting heavy guns. But 
in 1914 the first months of war showed that, under the fire of the 
latest siege artillery, the turret fort, with its steel armour and con- 
crete glacis, was futile. Five millions sterling had been expended 
on the forts of Bucharest ; for this campaign the money was as 
utterly wasted as if it had been thrown into the Black Sea. It 
needed 120,000 men to man the defences, and to shut up these 
numbers in the place would have been to make a present of them 
to the enemy. The Rumanian Staff had long recognized this truth, 
and the most they could do was to fight a delaying action on the 
Argesh to cover the evacuation. That had begun towards the end 
of November, when Mackensen first crossed the Danube. By ist 
December the Ministers, the banks, and the Allied Legations had 
moved to Jassy, in Moldavia. On 5th December the Arsenal was 
blown up. On 6th December Mackensen entered the city. 



Reference 
AustrwGermBn tines of advance 

._».-.. francs.- .. ■■ 

Land over 3000 feet shorn that 

., „.jom 



THE RUMANIAN CAMPAIGN. 





■«-.■•'.,■- •"' 



MCIA^MA; 









igi6] THE RETREAT TO JASSY. 253 

Meantime, in the north, Falkenhayn was approaching Ploeshti, 
the centre of the oil region. As he moved east from Targovishta 
he had before him, like the Israelites in the desert, a pillar of smoke 
by day and a pillar of fire by night. The air was rank with the fog 
and fumes of burning oil. The headworks of the wells, the wells 
themselves, the refineries, the stores, the tanks — all were ablaze 
as the Rumanians retreated. The destruction was largely the 
work of a British Member of Parliament, Colonel Norton Griffiths, 
assisted by the many American engineers employed in the oilworks, 
and millions of pounds' worth of property was destroyed in a few 
days. In front of the German armies moved a crowd of fugitives 
of every class and condition. Roads and railways were congested 
with traffic. In the towns on the line of the retreat there was 
little shelter and scanty fare. It was a starved and frozen crowd 
that struggled into Jassy and Galatz. 

The advance of Falkenhayn to Ploeshti had compelled the 
Rumanians to abandon the defence of the Predeal. Sinaia, the 
summer residence of King Ferdinand, among the pine-woods of 
the Prahova valley, was occupied on the same day as the capital. 
The German line now ran from the Predeal through Sinaia, Ploeshti, 
and Bucharest to the Danube, where Oltenitza had been abandoned, 
and a new Bulgarian force was crossing from Turtukai. Wallachia 
had gone, and the defence was confined to the short front between 
the apex of the Transylvanian salient at the Buzeu Pass and the 
river. North of the Buzeu the mountain frontier was still un- 
broken. The Rumanian army had suffered no Sedan ; but it had 
lost heavily, and the remnant was broken and weary. It was 
clear that the defence of Moldavia must for the present rest 
mainly with the Russian reinforcements. 

Contemporary history is rarely just to failure. Only when the 
mists have cleared and the main issues have been decided can the 
belligerents afford to weigh each section of a campaign in a just 
scale. Rumania's entry into the war had awakened baseless hopes 
among her Allies ; her unsuccess — her inexplicable unsuccess, as 
it seemed to many — was followed by equally baseless criticism and 
complaint. The truth is, that when Brussilov and Sarrail had once 
failed to achieve their purpose, her chances of victory were gone. 
She attempted a strategic problem which only a wild freak of fortune 
could have permitted her to solve. Her numbers from the start 
were too small, too indifferently trained, and too weakly supplied 
with guns. Nevertheless, once she stood with her back to the wall, 



254 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

this little people, inexpert in war, made a stalwart resistance. 
Let justice be done to the skill and fortitude of the Rumanian 
retreat. Her generals were quick to grasp the elements of danger, 
and by their defence of the central passes prevented the swift and 
utter disaster of which her enemies dreamed. After months of 
fighting, during which his armies lost heavily, Falkenhayn gained 
Wallachia and the capital ; but the plunder was not a tithe of 
what he had hoped for. The Rumanian expedition was, let it 
be remembered, a foraging expedition in part of its purpose, and 
the provender secured was small. The ten weeks of the retreat 
were marked by conspicuous instances of Rumanian quality in 
the field, and the battles of Hermannstadt and the Striu valley, 
the defence of the Predeal, Torzburg, and Rotherthurm Passes, 
the first battle of Targul Jiu, and Presan's counter-stroke on the 
Argesh were achievements of which any army might be proud. 
And the staunch valour of the Roman legionaries still lived in the 
heroic band who, under Anastasiu, cut their way from Orsova to 
the Aluta. 



CHAPTER LXV. 

THE ITALIAN COUNTER-ATTACK. 

June lb-November 21, 1916. 

Preparations for new Isonzo Battle — Fall of Gorizia — Italy declares War on Ger- 
many — The Autumn Campaign in the Carso — Death of the Emperor Francis 
Joseph. 

The Austrian threat in the Trentino had, according to General 
Cadorna, exhausted itself by the 3rd day of June. But this ex- 
haustion did not involve an immediate relinquishment of the 
struggle for the road to the Venetian plains. The Italian position 
lay from the Coni Zugna, in the Val Lagarina, to the massif of 
Pasubio, where they held the crests ; then south of the Posina to 
a point south-east of Arsiero ; and thence along the southern and 
eastern rims of the Asiago plateau to the Val Sugana. For a 
fortnight the enemy fought hard against the Italian centre and 
right, in the first theatre to break through the Posina heights 
and reach Schio, and in the second to turn the Italian flank on 
the Brenta. The splendid defence of Cadorna's left in the Pasubio 
and Buole region, where the Alpini fought half buried in snow, 
slept in snow, and had two hundred cases of frost-bite daily, had 
defeated the dangerous turning movement from the Vallarsa, and 
the only chances left to the enemy were in the centre and on the 
east. 

The actual Italian counter-offensive may be said to have begun 
on Friday, 16th June, when, on the extreme right, two columns 
of Alpini drove two Austrian regiments from Monte Magari, a 
peak of 5,000 feet above the Val Sugana, which forms the northern 
buttress of the Sette Communi plateau. Cadorna had begun to 
reascend the staircase down which the enemy had moved half-way. 
In spite of a stubborn defence, the Italian right began to close 
in on Asiago. On the 20th the centre advanced on the heights 

265 



256 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June 

south of the Posina, and on Monte Cengio. Meantime Brussilov's 
pressure in Volhynia was beginning to make itself felt, and by 
the 25th the Italians had begun to force the pace of withdrawal. 
Their artillery pounded the enemy positions, and between the 
Brenta and the Adige they won ground everywhere, in some places 
only half a mile, in others as much as four miles. On the 25th 
Monte Cengio was stormed, and Monte Cimone, north of Arsiero, 
was carried. Next day squadrons of Sicilian horse rode into 
Asiago, and on the 27th Arsiero was recovered. On the Italian 
left ground was won north of Coni Zugna, and the whole centre 
advanced across the Posina. The deep bulge between the Adige 
and the Brenta was being pressed in, and the enemy fell back 
only just in time. He had no reserves remaining, for his last 
division had been flung in to cover the difficult retirement of his 
left. In two days the Austrians had lost more than half the ground 
they had gained in their six weeks' offensive. 

Presently the enemy's front was behind the Posina and the 
Assa, and there for the time being he remained. He held a strong 
position in the centre on the mountain ridges of Maggio, Torano, 
Campomolon, and Spitz Tonnezza, and even on his flanks he had 
advanced from his old line, for he held Borgo in the east and Zugna 
Torta in the west. He had certain definite territorial gains to 
show for an enormous expenditure of shells, and losses which were 
not less than 130,000. Moreover, his retreat was skilful, for he 
lost few prisoners and few heavy guns. As he retired he contracted 
his front, and so could make up for the absence of the divisions 
which had gone eastwards against Brussilov. But when all 
has been said, the Trentino offensive was, from Austria's point of 
view, a grave failure. It had not reached its main objective — 
the Venetian plains and the railway communications of the Isonzo 
front. It had weakened Austria's strength, and lowered her 
power of resistance to Brussilov's attacks. It had inspired her 
with the false notion that she had crippled Cadorna and prevented 
any Italian offensive that year. Finally, it had taught the Italians 
their business. It had forced them to improve their communica- 
tions, and to grapple with transport difficulties of the first magni- 
tude. Italy's materiel was immensely increased, and her success- 
ful resistance not only gave her confidence and enthusiasm, but 
a certain suppleness in movement and a new technical aptitude. 
If Cadorna could bring reinforcements swiftly and secretly from 
the Isonzo to the Trentino, he might carry them back again with 
the same speed and silence. The penalty for Austria's failure 



I 9 l6] THE ISONZO FRONT. 257 

was not Italy's counter-stroke of June in the Trentino, but her 
August assault on Gorizia. 

As we have seen, the fifty-mile front on the Isonzo was one of 
the most difficult and complex of all the European battle-grounds. 
In July the Italian position was as follows : At Tolmino their 
left flank was east of the river, and established on the hills north 
of the town, while they held strongly the heights on the western 
bank. The town remained in Austrian hands, and the area offered 
no very good opportunities for an advance, since the railway from 
Gorizia to Villach by the Wochein tunnel was already cut, and a 
flank march on Gorizia from Tolmino was an almost impracti- 
cable undertaking. Fifteen miles south the Italian left centre 
held the bridgehead of Plava, which offered a possible route for 
an attack upon Monte Santo, the defence of Gorizia on the north. 
The enemy, however, held the heights east of the river in great 
strength, and such a plan, since the asset of surprise was lost, 
would have involved a cost wholly disproportionate to any con- 
ceivable gain. It had been tried on July 2, 1915, and had failed. 
An attack from this side was not possible till a more sheltered 
road could be made down into the Plava bottom which would 
escape the attentions of the enemy from Monte Kuk. 

The Italian centre lay in front of Gorizia itself. The city lay 
in a pocket of plain defended on all sides by ramparts of hills. 
West of the Isonzo the Austrians held the line of lower heights, 
Sabotino, Oslavia, and Podgora, on the first and last of which 
the Italians had formerly effected a lodgment. North ran the 
Ternovanerwald, with its main positions of Monte Santo, Monte 
San Gabriele, and Monte Santa Caterina. South lay the northern 
edge of the Carso plateau. Finally, the Italian right wing lay 
along the western rim of the Carso itself— that bleak, stony upland, 
without soil or vegetation, where every acre is a virtual fortress. 
The map will show that it projects well to the west into the great 
loop of the Isonzo. The chord of the arc so formed is the dry 
valley called the Vallone, which runs almost from the plain of 
Gorizia to the Adriatic. It was that part of the Carso west of 
the Vallone which formed the key of the southern defences of 
Gorizia. The valley itself was like a vast lateral communication 
trench, providing a sheltered road for the movement of troops 
behind the front line. The Italians held the greater part of this 
butt-end of the Carso, and in the centre reached almost to the 
Vallone ; but in the north Monte San Michele, and in the south 



258 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June-Aug. 

the line of heights between Sei Busi and Cosich, had defied their 
efforts. The vital point was San Michele, for it dominated the 
Gorizian plain. 

In any assault upon Gorizia there were two alternatives before 
the Italian commander. Merely to master the heights on the 
western bank would not give him the city. He must win them, 
and also carry in support either the northern defences at Santc 
or the southern at San Michele. The reason was that with the 
enemy on San Michele or Santo, the Podgora line, even if won, 
could not have been used as a position from which to assault the 
actual river crossing. Cadorna chose the latter of the two alter- 
natives — to carry the western bank, and at the same time take 
the defence on its southern flank by winning San Michele. 

During the winter Italy had made a great effort in the pre- 
paration of munitions and heavy guns, and her General Staff had 
worked out in detail the plans for the Isonzo attack. The Tren- 
tino business upset the time-table, but it did not change the essen- 
tials of the scheme. Cadorna spent May and June with one eye 
on the Sette Communi and the other on Gorizia and the Carso, 
where Boroevitch sat in fancied security. Even in the heat of 
the last defensive effort in the Trentino there was a steady winning 
of minor positions in the Gorizian area. For example, on the 
evening of 14th June a Neapolitan brigade captured by a sur- 
prise attack the enemy trenches east of Monfalcone, taking seven 
machine guns and nearly five hundred prisoners. On the 29th 
a sudden gas attack almost drove the Italians off the Carso, and 
in repelling it Colonel Gandolfi was the first soldier to receive 
the gold medal al valore otherwise than as a posthumous honour. 
Towards the end of June certain movements had already begun 
for transferring troops and guns from the Trentino to the Isonzo. 
The Italian Staff divided its operations under this head into three 
stages. From 29th June to July 27th the work was only pre- 
liminary, consisting of the transport of reserve units and of drafts 
for the existing Isonzo forces, as well as a certain amount of mate- 
rial. From 27th July to the eve of the grand assault the great 
guns and trench mortars were moved, and the principal new units, 
who received their orders while on the journey. After the attack 
began there was a rapid movement of reserves, which the railways, 
reorganized under the strain of the Trentino defence, handled 
with conspicuous speed and precision. 

Cadorna desired to take the enemy unawares. He intended to 
feint hard with his right wing against the Monfalcone end of the 



I9 i6] CADORNA'S PLAN. 259 

Carso position, and so induce the Austrians, under fear of being 
outflanked, to mass their local reserves there. At the same time, 
they would assume that it was merely a local effort, and would 
not hurry such strategic reserves as they might possess to that 
point from the more distant parts of their line. Then, when the 
main enemy strength was massed opposite Monfalcone, he intended 
to strike with his chief forces against Gorizia itself on the front 
from Sabotino to San Michele. His strategy was assisted by the 
confidence into which Boroevitch had been lulled. That com- 
mander believed that the Trentino offensive had, even in its failure, 
crippled Italy for months. Once again, as in Volhynia in June, 
Austria had underrated the recuperative power of her opponents. 

From the 1st day of August the Italian artillery bombarded the 
whole Isonzo front from Sabotino to the Adriatic. The " prepara- 
tion " was so uniform that the defence could not forecast an in- 
fantry attack in any one section from the special violence of the 
shelling. On Friday, 4th August, came the Monfalcone feint. The 
Bersaglieri, who had long made this their fighting ground, carried 
two hills to the east of the Rocca, in their assault upon the strong 
Austrian flank positions on Monte Cosich. The Austrians left 
numbers of asphyxiating bombs in their abandoned trenches, 
which did terrible havoc among the attackers. Presently a counter- 
stroke drove back the Bersaglieri to their original line. But 
Cadorna's purpose had been secured, for Boroevitch promptly rein- 
forced the Monfalcone section. 

On Sunday, 6th August, the Italian bombardment was resumed, 
this time with redoubled fury along the front from Sabotino to 
San Michele. Presently it was reported that the Austrian first 
position had been destroyed, and at four in the afternoon the in- 
fantry crossed their parapets. Against Gorizia itself moved the 
right wing of the Second Army, the enlarged 6th Corps, under 
General Capello, whose chief of staff, Badoglio, had planned the 
details of the battle. On the right against San Michele and the 
north edge of the Carso was the left wing of the Duke of Aosta's 
Third Army. 

The great battle of that day and the following which determined 
the fate of Gorizia falls naturally into two parts — the northern, 
where the Italians aimed at mastering the heights between Sabotino 
and Podgora ; and the southern, where the objective was San 
Michele. Sabotino and San Michele may be regarded as the two 
lateral buttresses of the Gorizian bridgehead, the fall of which 
must involve its conquest. On the extreme left troops of the 



260 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug. 

45th Division were directed on Sabotino. The mountain had been 
tunnelled to within ninety feet of the Austrian trenches, and in 
that tunnel the first wave of the assault assembled. At the signal 
they swept up the broken hillside among the blazing scrub with 
such splendid gallantry that they were through the enemy first 
position before he had begun his barrage. In twenty minutes the 
first three trench lines were carried, and within an hour the Italians 
had the redoubt on the summit, fifteen hundred feet above the 
river, had captured the whole garrison, and were swarming down 
the farther side. Before the dark fell the 45th Division held the 
line San Valentino-San Mauro, within half a mile of the river. 
Just south of Sabotino a brigade of the 43rd Division assaulted the 
hill marked 188, and carried it. On their right the Abruzzi Brigade 
of the 24th Division stormed at dusk the strong line of Oslavia. 
South, again, a brigade of the nth Division advanced against 
Podgora. This key-position, so long contested, was not taken 
without desperate fighting. The crest was won in patches, and 
the Italians advanced down the farther slope ; but for two days 
small garrisons of brave men resisted on the summit. An Austrian 
major with forty men made such a gallant stand that when he was 
finally overpowered the Italian commander ordered his men to 
present arms to the prisoners. Austria's fighting record in the 
campaign was so consistently belittled by her German allies that 
it is worth while remembering that both against Italy and Russia 
certain of her troops showed a fighting quality which was never 
excelled and not often equalled in the German ranks. Finally, to 
complete the tale of this section, the 12th Division carried Monte 
Calvaria, and had advanced by nightfall against the enemy's final 
position between the southern end of Podgora and the river. 

Not less were the achievements of the Third Army against 
San Michele. Had it been possible for the Bersaglieri on the 4th 
to have carried the Sei Busi-Cosich position, the Italian right might 
have swung northwards against the southern flank of the mountain. 
As it was, the place had to be taken by direct assault. The four 
peaks, three of which had once been in Italian hands, seemed to 
offer a task too hard for mortal valour. Nevertheless it was com- 
pleted, but not without heavy loss. The enemy fought from 
cavern to cavern and from redoubt to redoubt ; but he could not 
be reinforced, and step by step during the 6th and 7th the Italians 
won their way to the rim overlooking Gorizia and forced the defence 
northwards. 

By midday on Tuesday, 8th August, the whole of the heights 



Igi 6] FALL OF GORIZIA. 261 

on the western bank of the river had fallen to Cadorna, and the 
key-point of San Michele on the eastern shore. The moment had 
now come for the assault upon Gorizia itself. Trench line after 
trench line had to be carried in the riverside flats, but before the 
darkness came no Austrians remained on the western bank. The 
bridges had been damaged, and must be repaired before the army 
could cross, and for this task it was necessary to get an advance 
guard over to hold a covering line. At dusk troops of the Casale 
and Pavia Brigades forded the stream, and entrenched themselves 
on the farther side, while detachments of cavalry and Bersaglieri 
cyclists pursued and kept touch with the retreating enemy. That 
day, too, the right wing won more ground on San Michele, occupy- 
ing Boschini on its extreme northern edge. By the morning of 
the 9th the bridges were ready, and the main army crossed the 
stream. Before noon it entered Gorizia, no longer the pleasant 
city among orchards which had once made it the Austrian Nice, 
but a dusty, shell-scarred memorial of a year of war. Meantime 
the Italian cavalry was pressing eastwards to the line of the little 
river Vertoibizza, and the hills which on the east bound the Gorizian 
plain. Already over 12,000 prisoners were in Cadorna's hands, 
and the casualties of the defence were little less than 80,000. 

With the fall of Gorizia Cadorna's offensive entered on its 
second phase. Trieste was now the direct objective, and as a 
first step the enemy must be driven beyond the Vallone depression, 
since as long as he held any part of the western side he menaced 
Gorizia, and barred progress on the Carso itself. On Thursday, 
10th August, began the advance on the Vallone. That day the 
whole Doberdo plateau was cleared, the Sei Busi-Cosich knot of 
hills was taken, and the enemy was flung eastward across the 
valley. At one point in the south, at Debeli, near Monfalcone, 
the Austrians held their ground for two days longer ; but on Satur- 
day, the 12th, their resistance was broken, and the whole of the 
western butt-end of the Carso was in Cadorna's hands. He pressed 
on east of the Vallone, took the village of Oppacchiasella, the hill 
called Nad Logem, and positions on the west side of Monte Pecinka. 
North-east of Gorizia he won Tivoli, on the slopes of Monte Santa 
Caterina. But it was clear that the San Gabriele and Santo heights 
could not be taken without a simultaneous attack from Plava 
or Monte Kuk. Moreover, it was necessary to rearrange the front 
after the fortnight's fighting, and about 15th August the advance 
slowed down. It had made invaluable gains. Gorizia and the 
Gorizian plain were won, and a vital part of the Carso, the line 



262 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug. 

now lying several miles east of the Vallone. The Austrians, as in 
Galicia, had been compelled by their repulse not to shorten but 
to lengthen a front already inadequately held. The whole southern 
Isonzo defence system had disappeared, and between Cadorna and 
Trieste lay a country, difficult indeed, but lacking such elaborately 
prepared fortifications as those which had made the Isonzo line so 
stubborn a problem. Between 4th and 15th August he had taken 
18,758 prisoners, 393 of them officers, 30 heavy guns, 62 pieces of 
trench artillery, 92 machine guns, and huge quantities of every 
kind of war materiel. 

The August battles roused in Italy a strong emotion of joy and 
pride. Only those who have seen the steep wooded hills west of 
Gorizia, and viewed the intractable landscape of the Carso, can 
realize how great was the Italian achievement. The Carso in 
especial might be claimed with truth as the most terrible battle- 
field in Europe. Waterless and dusty, scorching by day and icy 
by night, it was one giant natural redoubt. There was nothing to 
soften the shattering percussion of projectiles among the acres of 
rock and boulders, and wounds which elsewhere might have been 
slight became deadly injuries. Further, Austria had used all the 
laborious talent of certain classes of her people to turn the natural 
strength of the place to the best advantage. In this uncanny 
fighting Italy was developing special troops distinguished by a 
desperate ardour and an extreme endurance. She had always 
been famous for her corps d'elite, and to the great names of 
Alpini and Bersaglieri there were soon to be added those of Arditi 
and Granatieri. New leaders also had emerged in the struggle, 
and of Capello and Badoglio the world was to hear much in the 
future. 

The fall of Gorizia was for Italy like the extra chemical whose 
addition to a compound dissolves certain intractable elements. 
The new enthusiasm for the war brought her into exact line with 
her Allies. On May 23, 1915, she had broken with Austria-Hun- 
gary, and the Triple Alliance was at an end ; on 20th August of 
the same year she had declared war on Turkey, and on 19th October 
on Bulgaria ; but with Germany she still remained formally at 
peace. Her reasons for this anomalous situation were mainly 
domestic, and no Ally questioned their validity, the more especially 
as against one member of the Teutonic League she was waging a 
whole-hearted struggle. But the financial and ecclesiastical diffi- 
culties which stood in the way of a final break with Germany 
gradually disappeared during the first year of war. Germany was 



igi6] WAR WITH GERMANY DECLARED. 263 

the supreme fount of offence, and a contest with any one of her 
allies must bring a nation face to face with that Prussian creed 
which civilized Europe had vowed to destroy. Nor was she her- 
self slow to give Italy specific grounds for hostility. She surrendered 
to Austria Italian prisoners of war who escaped to German soil ; 
she directed her banks to regard Italian subjects as alien enemies, 
and to postpone all payments owing to them ; she suspended the 
payment of pensions due to Italian workmen. By the summer of 
1916 the nominal peace was the merest comedy. It was Germany 
who supplied Austria, Italy's direct opponent, with her chief 
munitions of war ; it was German officers and German soldiers 
and sailors who largely directed every operation against Italy ; it 
was only by Germany's assistance that the Archduke Charles had 
been able to concentrate for the Trentino offensive. The contrast 
between the situations de facto and de jure had become too glaring 
to continue. Cadorna's success cleared the air. The new national 
spirit demanded that truth should be spoken and facts recognized. 
Accordingly, on 27th August the Government declared in the 
King's name that Italy considered herself as from 28th August in 
a state of war with Germany, and begged Switzerland to convey 
the intimation to Berlin. So completely farcical had been the 
previous peace that the declaration involved no single change in 
the conduct of the campaign. 

The capture of Gorizia was an important step, but the nature 
of the country made it no more than a first step, and those who 
spoke glibly of a dash for Laibach or Trieste had small acquaint- 
ance with the intricate landscape. North of Gorizia the Isonzo 
runs in a deep trench, its eastern bank rises in sharp wooded 
ridges to the height of nearly 2,000 feet, and from its crest runs 
north-east the great Bainsizza plateau between the Isonzo and the 
Val Chiapovano. South of this last glen, and at right angles to 
the main river, the southern rim of the Ternovanerwald stretches 
eastward, with its peaks of Monte San Gabriele and Monte San 
Daniele defending the Gorizian plain from the north. Till these 
were mastered, there could be no advance from Gorizia along the 
railway to Trieste. East of the city the Austrians held the low 
wooded ridge of San Marco, and the east bank of the Vertoibizza 
up to the edge of the Carso, along whose foot flowed from the east 
the little river Vippacco. The western Carso had already been 
won, but the Carso east of the Vallone was a harder problem. Deso- 
late and stony in the interior, it had shaggy wooded fringes — the 



264 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

ridge above the Vippacco in the north, and in the south Hermada 
and the coast foothills. Its tableland was tilted towards the 
north-east, where it ascended from the Vallone in a great stair- 
case to the crest called the Iron Gates, south of Dornberg. 

It is necessary to recapitulate this topography that the strength 
of the Austrian position may be understood. Two facts must be 
kept in mind. The first is, that no advance eastwards through the 
Gorizian plain was practicable till Santo, Gabriele, and Daniele, 
the rim of the Ternovanerwald, had been won, and that to win 
these points the Italians must first scale the steep ridge east of 
the Isonzo and carry the Bainsizza plateau. The second is, that 
for the same advance the Carso must be carried, and that with 
every mile the place became a stronger fortress. To force the ridge 
of the Iron Gates by direct attack was impracticable, and the best 
chance was a turning movement by the south. But to block this 
rose Hermada, one labyrinth of tunnels and trenches, and bristling 
with guns. The task before Cadorna was a slow and formidable 
one, and could only be performed by patient stages. Moreover, it 
must be performed by alternate blows — now at the Santo ridge, 
now on the Carso, for each demanded a full concentration. Till 
Gabriele and Daniele were won in the north and Hermada on the 
south, the Austrians in Trieste might sleep secure. 

The Carso was fixed as the theatre of the next movement, and 
something like a month was occupied in preparation. The Italian 
line — the Third Army — now ran from the Vippacco, east of the 
hill called Nad Logem, east of Oppacchiasella, west of the hamlet 
of Nova Vas, east of the lake of Doberdo, and thence to the coast 
marshes about Porto Rosega. On the morning of 14th September 
a great bombardment began between the Vippacco and the sea, 
in which the bombarda, the giant 11-inch trench mortar, played a 
chief part. Just after midday a thunderstorm broke on the Carso, 
and when, in the early afternoon, the Italian infantry advanced it 
was in a downpour of rain. In the centre, east of Nad Logem, 
they succeeded at once, and took large numbers of prisoners. On 
the right there was desperate fighting around Nova Vas and Hill 
208 to the south, and no impression was made on the extreme 
right, where Hills 144 and jy were supported by the guns from 
Hermada. On the left the Italians surrounded the little hill where 
stood San Grado di Merna. 

All night thunderstorms rattled among the stony scarps, and 
with the wet dawn the batteries began again. At midday on the 
15th came the next attack, which gave the Italians San Grado as 



i 9 i6] THE CARSO CAMPAIGN. 265 

well as some gains at Lokvica * and Oppacchiasella. Next day, 
the 16th, the line was farther advanced, and on the following 
day Austrian counter-attacks were decisively repulsed. So far, 
in the four days' battle, the Duke of Aosta had taken between 
4,000 and 5,000 prisoners, but he had not won any vital position. 
The Austrians showed the most dogged tenacity in defence, and 
they were well served by the nature of their fortifications. To 
quote from an Italian communique : " Their new trenches had 
been prepared months ago, and had been strengthened and deep- 
ened as soon as the Italian offensive which resulted in the taking 
of Gorizia began. Many of these were blasted out of the rock to 
the depth of about six feet, faced with a low parapet of sandbags, 
and protected with steel shields, as experience had taught the 
Austrians not to use stones in the construction of their breast- 
works, and to avoid offering even the smallest target to the Italian 
artillery and trench mortars. Moreover, caverns and deep dug- 
outs protected the defenders during bombardment. The undulat- 
ing ground, broken by innumerable crater-like holes in the lime- 
stone, and here and there covered by small woods, lends itself 
admirably to obstinate resistance with concealed emplacements 
and hidden machine guns. Everywhere they had barbed-wire 
entanglements, much of which, being concealed, escaped destruc- 
tion." 

Once more the Italian bombardment was renewed, and with 
it came the rain. Low mists hung over the plateau, observation 
from the air was impossible, and it was not till 10th October that 
the next attack was made. The infantry of the Third Army 
advanced at 2.45 p.m. in a thin fog, and were immediately suc- 
cessful. They straightened out the kinks which had been left 
from the September battle, winning notably the remainder of the 

* A short list may be given of the chief place-names which are spelled differ- 
ently on Austrian and on Italian maps : — 

A ustrian. Italian. 

Flitsch. Plezzo. 

Tolmein. Tolmino. 

Gorz. Gorizia. 

Wippach. Vippacco (sometimes Frigido). 

Volkovnjak. Vugognacco. 

Fajti Hrib. Faiti or Dosso Faiti. 

Kuk. Monte Kuk, Cucco, Coceo, 

Nova Vas. Villanova. 

Kostanjevica, Castagnevizza. 

Hudi Log. Boscomalo. 

Lukatic. Locati. 

Hermada. Querceto. 

Lokvica. Locvizza. 



266 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct. 

Hill 208 position, and Hill 144 east of Lake Doberdo. The Italian 
front now ran nearly straight from Hill 144 to the Vippacco, and 
included the whole of the old Austrian front which had been at- 
tacked in September. Next morning, nth October, the Austrians 
counter-attacked in dense fog, especially against the Italian left. 
In the afternoon, when the weather had cleared, the Italians again 
advanced, and during that night and the following day there was 
a fierce struggle for Sober and the new line on Hill 144. At Sober 
alone, on a single battalion front, 400 dead were counted. That 
afternoon the Italians carried the hill of Pecinka in the centre, 
and got into the outskirts of the villages of Lokvica and Hudi 
Log, more than a mile east of Nova Vas. Once more the line 
was as serrated as it had been in September. 

On the 13th, in wild weather, the Duke of Aosta's left pushed 
north of Sober to the Gorizia-Prvacina road, and brought their 
capture of prisoners up to 8,000. But the continuing tempest — 
the same chain of gales which dislocated the British plans on the 
Somme — forced the battle to a standstill, and compelled the Italians 
to withdraw a little from Pecinka, Lokvica, and Hudi Log. For 
a fortnight the rains continued, and then very slowly the mists 
began to rise, and a chill, the first hint of winter, crept into the 
air. On 30th October the skies were clear, and from dawn to 
dusk there was such a bombardment as even the Carso had not 
seen. Fog had settled on the ridges again, but it was the fog of 
powdered earth, splintered stone, and the fumes of the great shells. 
The guns roared all night, and on the morning of the 31st, at ten 
minutes past eleven, the Italian infantry crossed the parapets, to 
be met with a hurricane of shrapnel as soon as they showed in 
the open. On the left the nth Corps won back all the ground 
that had been relinquished, carried Pecinka and Lokvica, and within 
an hour, by a brilliant flanking movement, had the summit of 
Veliki Hrib. Thence they swept on to the hill named 376. 
The Italian centre south of Lokvica moved along the Oppac- 
chiasella-Kostanjevica road, and came within a thousand yards 
of the latter place. The right wing, operating along the southern 
rim of the Carso plateau, took Hill 238 and the village of Jamiano, 
but could not maintain itself against the fire from the Hermada 
guns. That hollow east of Hill 144, the southern end of the Val- 
ione, became a nether pit of smoke and death. 

The day had been for the Third Army a remarkable victory, 
for on a front of more than two miles, between the north edge of 
the Carso and the Oppacchiasella-Kostanjevica road, the Austrian 



1916] CAPTURE OF FAJTI HRIB. 267 

line had been shattered. A large number of enemy batteries were 
taken, and nearly 5,000 prisoners, including 132 officers. But a 
pronounced salient had been created, and a salient is always liable 
to a counter-stroke. The Austrians had been so roughly handled 
that it was not till 2nd November that their guns woke. All the 
ground won by the Italian centre was plastered with shells, and 
since the Italians were largely in the open, the old trenches having 
been destroyed, their sufferings were severe. Of the Bersaglieri 
brigade which had taken Pecinka there is told a fine tale. All 
night the brigadier and the commanders of the 6th and 12th Regi- 
ments walked up and down the front line to give confidence to 
their men, and in the morning of the three only one was left. About 
midday the enemy launched his infantry against Pecinka and Hill 
308, in order to drive a wedge into the salient. He failed, and the 
Italians again swept forward, taking Hill 399 and the crowning 
position of Fajti Hrib. 

Fajti Hrib is the highest point of the step of the great stair- 
case which runs from the Vippacco to Kostanjevica. It commanded 
the last-named village and also the road which ran to the east 
from north to south across the plateau. The situation was grave 
for the enemy's centre, but for the moment he had to content 
himself with fruitless counter-attacks on the flanks. The Italian 
salient was now as deep as it was broad — some two miles each 
way — and the danger of a counter-attack at the re-entrants was 
great. But on 3rd November a division moved downhill from the 
rim of the Carso and occupied the line of the Vippacco west of 
Biglia, and so protected the northern flank of the salient. Farther 
south during the same day other troops occupied Hill 291, and 
came within 200 yards of Kostanjevica. In the three days' fight- 
; ng the Third Army had taken 8,750 prisoners, including 270 
officers. 

The Austrians were now back everywhere on their third line. 
Part of it, from the Vippacco to Kostanjevica, was an improvised 
line constructed during the September attack. But from Kostan- 
jevica south it was largely the old first line, made long before 
Gorizia fell, and moreover its strength was increased by the for- 
midable concealed batteries on Hermada. It was clear that Her- 
mada was the real obstacle, and that no progress could be made 
till a way was found of taking order with it. This meant a great 
concentration of guns and a halt for preparations ; but meantime 
the winter closed down, and, though all through December Cadorna 
waited in readiness hoping for fine weather, about Christmas he 



268 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

had to abandon his plan, and postpone the next effort to the spring. 
During November and December the rain fell in sheets : every 
ravine was a torrent, and every depression a morass. The bora 
scourged the bleak uplands, and with the new year came frost and 
snow, so that the Isonzo front was scarcely less arctic than the 
glacier posts in Trentino or the icy eyries in the Dolomites. It 
was a bitter winter for the front lines ; but through it all a per- 
petual toil went on to improve positions, to contrive gun emplace- 
ments, to complete a network of communication trenches, in 
preparation for the campaign which the next season would bring. 
The troops could look back upon four months of brilliant achieve- 
ment. But Italy was now at war with Germany as well as with 
Austria, and her High Command had little doubt that 1917 would 
prove a supreme test of their country's valour and resolution. 

On Tuesday, 21st November, the Emperor Francis Joseph died. 
He was in his eighty-sixth year — the oldest sovereign in the world. 
He had reigned for sixty-eight years, having begun his active 
political life just after the fall of Metternich. He had fought 
many wars, and had nearly always been beaten ; he had had to 
yield time and again his most cherished convictions ; he had suf- 
fered the deepest public and private sorrows ; and in the end he 
had come to be regarded as one of the permanent things in Europe 
from his sheer length of life and tenacity in suffering. He was 
the last believer in the old theory of the divine right of monarchs 
(for the German Emperor held a more modern variant), and his 
passionate faith gave him strength and constancy. To this creed 
everything was sacrificed — ease, family affection, private honour, 
the well-being of individuals and of nations — until he became an 
inhuman monarchical machine, grinding out decisions like an 
automaton. His age and his afflictions persuaded the world to 
judge him kindly, and indeed the tragic loneliness of his life made 
the predominant feeling one of pity. But if we try him by any 
serious standard, we cannot set him among the good sovereigns 
of the world, and still less among the great. He gravely misruled 
the peoples entrusted to his care, he brought misfortunes upon 
Europe, and in the end he left his country ruined, bleeding, and 
bankrupt. The cause he fought for was not noble or wise, but 
only a sumptuous egotism. At no time in his career had he any 
true perception of the forces at work in the world. He broke 
his head against new powers which he did not foresee, and then 
sat in the dust to be commiserated. The tragedy lay in a mind 



i 9 i6] DEATH OF FRANCIS JOSEPH. 269 

so sparsely furnished being charged with the control of such 
mighty destinies. He was a self-deceiver, living in a fanciful 
world of his own to which he feebly sought to make facts con- 
form. He had the dignity and patience of his strange house, and 
in the fullest degree the essential Hapsburg weakness. 

His successor on the throne was his great-nephew, the Arch- 
duke Charles Francis Joseph, the son of that Archduke Otto who 
was the younger brother of the murdered Francis Ferdinand. He 
was in his thirtieth year, and had lately been commanding in 
chief on the southern section of the Eastern front. The new Em- 
peror had some of the characteristics of his father, and shared in 
his personal popularity. He was known as a good sportsman 
and a young man of frank and engaging manners ; but he had 
scarcely the education to fit him to sit on the most difficult throne 
in Europe. He was reported to have shared the trialist views of 
his uncle, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and his two years of 
campaigning had done something to sour his temper towards the 
martinets of Berlin. He wished to safeguard the remains of his 
sovereignty, and it was believed that he might show a certain 
independence in policy. If he accepted Mitteleuropa, it would be 
because of the interests of Austria-Hungary and not from sub- 
servience to his German ally. 



CHAPTER LXVI. 

THE WINTER OF 1916 IN EASTERN AND SOUTH- 
EASTERN EUROPE. 

August 25, 1916-January 29, 1917. 

The Allies advance in Macedonia — Capture of Monastir — Venizelos leaves Athens 
for Salonika — Disorders in Athens and Submission of Greek Government — 
Difficulties in Way of Allied Pi licy — Falkenhayn reaches the Sereth — Ru- 
manian Coalition Government at Jassy — Meeting of Russian Duma — Miliu- 
kov's Indictment of the Government. 



We left the narrative of the Salonika campaign at the close of 
August, when the Bulgarian offensive had carried the troops of 
Todorov's II. Army to the gates of Kavala. The northern forts 
were occupied on 25th August, and on 14th September the invaders 
entered the town itself. Then followed strange doings. The 
bulk of the 4th Greek Corps, stationed in the place, along with one 
Colonel Hatzopoulos its commander, surrendered itself without a 
blow to the enemy, and was carried to Germany as " guests " of 
the German Government. One portion, the 6th Division, under 
Colonel Christodoulos, succeeded in making its way by Thasos to 
Salonika, to join the Allied forces. The Athens Government 
repudiated the action of the commander of the 4th Corps, alleging 
that he had strict orders, in case of necessity, to transport his 
tioops to Volo. But over these instructions, as over the similar 
case of the surrender of Fort Rupel, there hung a mist of doubt and 
suspicion, a doubt which has since been turned into a damning 
certainty by the publication of the correspondence between Athens 
and Berlin. The surrender was not only acquiesced in, but invited. 
Rumania had begun her campaign, and it behoved Sarrail to 
play his part in detaining her enemies. But the events of August 
had made it very clear to him that no offensive could succeed by 
way of the Vardar and Struma valleys. The enemy was too strongly 

270 



igi6] THE BRITISH SALONIKA FRONT. 271 

in force, and the country was too difficult. His one hope lay in 
he west, where, not too remote from the Allied lines, lay Monastir, 
the most cherished of Bulgaria's gains — a city which the enemy 
might be trusted to fight hard to retain. In that quarter was to 
be found a possible objective in the military sense, and at the same 
time a certain means of engaging Bulgaria's attention. Accord- 
ingly the bulk of Cordonnier's French force, the Serbian Corps 
under Mishitch, and the Russian contingent were allocated to the 
advance west of the Vardar. By the last day of August, except 
for a French mounted detachment, the whole front from the 
Vardar eastwards was in British hands. 

The task of General Milne was that of controlling the Bulgarian 
II. Army so that it should not send reinforcements to the I. Army 
in the Monastir section. His methods were artillery bombard- 
ments and well-organized raids into the enemy lines. He slowly 
made ground, till by the end of the year he had advanced the 
British front east of the Struma, and had prepared a position 
secure from assault, and formidable enough to detain large enemy 
forces. On 10th September the Struma was crossed at five places 
above Lake Tahinos, and a number of villages occupied. Five 
days later there was a second successful crossing in the same area, 
and yet another on the 23rd, when the sudden rising of the river 
made operations difficult. Between nth and 13th September the 
Bulgarian front between the Vardar and Lake Doiran was heavily 
bombarded at a point where it formed a salient, and the subsequent 
infantry attack inflicted severe losses on the enemy. Towards the 
close of the month, in order to co-operate with the impending 
attack on Fiorina, preparations were made for a more prolonged 
effort beyond the Struma. Bridges were improvised between 
Orljak and Lake Tahinos, and on the night of 29th September 
our infantry crossed. On the 30th one brigade carried various 
villages, beat off counter-attacks, and by 2nd October had consoli- 
dated its position. On the 3rd another brigade won the village of 
Yenikoi, on the main road from Seres to Salonika. The Bulgarians 
counter-attacked desperately during the afternoon and evening, 
but by the following morning our ground was secure. On the 5th, 
Nevolien, a hamlet north of the highroad, was taken, and on the 7th 
we flung forward a cavalry reconnaissance which located the enemy 
on the railway between Demir Hissar and Seres. Presently we 
were astride the line, and the Bulgarians took up strong positions 
on the high ground to the eastward. On 1st November we captured 
Barakli Djuma, six miles south-west of Demir Hissar, taking over 



272 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

three hundred prisoners, and strengthened our hold on the railway 
north of Seres. But the floods of the Struma, the wintry weather, 
and the strength of the enemy prevented us from undertaking 
any larger movement. In artillery work we had shown ourselves 
conspicuously superior to the Bulgarians, and our activity of the 
autumn won us immunity from attack during the winter trench 
warfare. The British had performed the task assigned to them, 
and immobilized Todorov while Sarrail's left wing was creeping 
nearer to Monastir. 

At the end of August the Bulgarian I. Army was still advancing, 
and there was fierce fighting on the northern shore of Lake Ostrovo. 
By the last day of the month that offensive had been definitely 
checked, and on 7th September the Allied attack began. On the 
extreme left, in Albania, the Italians were in motion east of Avlona. 
The main front directed against Monastir was held by the Serbian 
Corps on the right, and by the French and Russians on the left. 
The city lies at the mouth of a gorge on the western side of the 
Pelagonian plain. East of it the river Tcherna flows southward, 
and then turns to the north in a wide curve, containing in its loop 
a number of minor ridges of hills. The Salonika road and railway 
ran south also, west of the Tcherna curve, to the Greek border and 
Fiorina, crossed the watershed, and turned along the north shore 
of Lake Ostrovo. Between that lake and the Tcherna loop lies the 
Moglena range of mountains, close on 8,000 feet high, which sepa- 
rates Greece from south-western Macedonia. Against an enemy 
advancing from the south-east Monastir was well protected. Who- 
ever held the Moglena crest could bar all access to the plain ; and 
even when the frontier was passed, strong lines of defence were 
possible by means of the various tributaries entering the Tcherna 
from the west. Sarrail's plan was simple. The Serbians were 
directed from the Vodena-Lake Ostrovo line against the Moglena 
ridge, while farther west the French and Russians moved on Fiorina 
and the southern entrance to the Monastir plain. If the moun- 
tains were won and the advance pushed beyond them, it was 
clear that any defensive position in the south of that plain would 
be turned on its eastern flank, and once the hills in the Tcherna 
loop were carried the city would fall. 

The Serbians began their main advance on 7th September, at 
a time when the valleys were yellow with ripening millet, and the 
orchards around the little villages were heavy with fruit. West 
and north of Lake Ostrovo they progressed in a series of bounds, 
making brilliant use of their field guns, and storming the enemy 



1916] THE DEFENCES OF MONASTIR. 273 

trenches on the slopes with hand grenade and bayonet. They 
were fighting for revenge, and every foot gained brought them 
nearer to their native soil. Their left wing moved towards Banitsa, 
and their centre and right against the massif of Kaymakchalan, 
the highest point of the Moglena range. On the 14th they took 
Ekshisu, on the railway between Ostrovo and Fiorina, by a dashing 
cavalry charge, and pushed their front well up the steep ridge to 
the north. On the 16th the Franco-Russian force, sweeping in 
a wide curve south-west of Lake Ostrovo, was close on the Greek 
town of Fiorina, which the Bulgarians had taken a month before. 
Four days later the Serbians stormed the summit of Kaymak- 
chalan, and there for the first time re-entered their native land. 
That morning also, after a battle which lasted all the previous day 
and night, the Franco-Russian troops carried Fiorina by assault. 
The Allies were now in the Monastir plain, their left moving 
up the railway, their centre approaching the Tcherna loop, and 
their right on the top of the flanking mountains. The men on the 
hilltops were looking over the empty fields and yellowing vineyards 
to the red roofs and shining white walls and minarets of the most 
ancient of Balkan cities. 

To defend Monastir there were three main lines of entrench- 
ments. One ran north of Fiorina and south of the Greek frontier ; 
a second lay from the western hills through the village of Kenali 
to the loop of the Tcherna ; while a third followed the little river 
Bistritza just south of the city itself. The key to the whole posi- 
tion was Kaymakchalan, and to regain this the Bulgarians made 
many desperate and fruitless counter-attacks. On the 26th at 
dawn came such a venture, which was broken before the sun rose. 
Late on the night of the 27th four different assaults were launched, 
one of which succeeded in taking the advanced Serbian line on the 
northern slope ; but the crest remained in the Allied hands. Two 
days later Mishitch made another bound forward, and pushed his 
front one and a quarter miles north of Kaymakchalan, spreading 
also down the slopes towards the Tcherna. The result was to out- 
flank the first Bulgarian position for the defence of the Monastir 
plain, and to drive the enemy back to the Kenali lines, only ten 
miles from the city. 

While the French and Russians faced Kenali from the plain, 
it was the task of Mishitch to continue the outflanking movement 
by crossing the Tcherna and winning the ridges in the loop of the 
river. The bridges had been destroyed, but by 5th October the 
river had been crossed in the region of Brod and Dobraveni. The 



274 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct.-Nov. 

Serbians now held twenty-five miles of frontier, and had regained 
ninety square miles of their own land, including seven villages. 
Ludendorff was compelled to take action. He had already had 
friction with the Bulgarian Headquarters, and he now insisted that 
the armies on that front should be made a group under German 
command, and Otto von Below was brought south from Courland 
for the task. The Kenali position was virtually impregnable to a 
frontal attack, and it was hoped to hold Mishitch among the ridges 
inside the loop once the river was crossed. 

The next great assault came on 14th October. After a heavy 
artillery preparation the infantry went into action at one o'clock 
in the morning all along the line. But the position was too strong 
to be carried by a frontal assault, and little was achieved. On 
the 17th the Serbians attacked north of the Tcherna, and forced 
their way well into the loop, getting behind the main alignment 
of the Kenali position. On the 19th they were nearly four miles 
north of Brod. Then on 21st October the weather broke, and Sar- 
rail had to endure the same obstacles from rainstorms which were 
at the moment delaying the British advance on the Somme. In 
drenching wet and fog the fighting in the Tcherna hills slowed 
down. The opportunity was taken by Winckler to strengthen his 
front and bring up his reserves, and for a little it looked as if the 
chance of the Allies had gone for the year. The new arrivals 
counter-attacked on the 22nd, but Mishitch held his ground in the 
loop, and in some places advanced his line. During the last week 
of October these attacks were many times repeated, while the 
French and Russians bombarded their fourteen-mile front, aim- 
ing especially at preventing the movement of troops from one 
bank of the Tcherna to the other. 

On 14th and 15th November Mishitch struck again. He moved 
forward in the loop, taking 1,000 prisoners, mostly Germans, and 
reaching a point only a dozen miles from Monastir. This victory 
spelled the doom of the Kenali lines, now hopelessly outflanked. 
Violent counter-attacks failed to delay the Allied progress, for on 
the 14th the French and Russians broke into the Kenali front 
fighting in a sea of mud, and early on the 15th it was found that 
the enemy had evacuated the position and fallen back to the 
Bistritza, less than four miles from Monastir. The Bulgarian line 
now ran in the loop of the Tcherna through Jaratok and Iven, 
with the Serbians close on their trail. 

The city was all but won, for if the Kenali lines which Macken- 
sen had prepared a year before could not be held, there was little 



THE SALONIKA FRONT. 




igi6] FALL OF MONASTIR. 275 

hope for those on the Bistritza, which were only a month old. 
Thursday, the 16th, was a day of rain and fog, and the Serbians, 
who now, as before, had the vital task, could not make progress. 
But Friday was clear and bright, and after severe fighting Mishitch 
carried before evening Hill 1,212, north of Jaratok. One height 
only remained, that marked in the map 1,378, before the Serbians 
would be masters of all the high ground in the Tcherna loop, and 
be able to descend upon the Prilep road north of Monastir, and cut 
off the retreat of the enemy forces. On Saturday, the 18th, late 
in the evening, Hill 1,378 fell, and at daybreak on the 19th the 
Serbians were in Makovo and Dobromir, and so well to the north- 
east of Monastir. 

Winckler retreated while yet there was time. At 8.15 a.m. on 
Sunday, the 19th, the last German battalion hastened out along 
the Prilep road, and at 8.30 French cavalry were in the streets. 
At nine came the first French infantry, and then a Russian bat- 
talion, and then an Italian detachment which had come in on the 
extreme left. Later in the day from across the Tcherna the 
Serbians arrived in their recovered city. To them the fall of 
Monastir was mainly due, for by their brilliant flanking move- 
ments, first at Kaymakchalan and then in the Tcherna loop, they 
had rendered futile the enemy's long-prepared defences. It was an 
auspicious omen that they entered Monastir on the anniversary of 
the day on which, four years before, their troops had wrested it 
from the Turks. 

The enemy had fallen back a dozen miles towards Prilep. He 
was not pursued, for at that season of the year advance was diffi- 
cult. The snowy Babuna mountains barred the northern exits 
from the plain. The country around Monastir was cleared, how- 
ever, in a wide radius, and on 27th November the hill marked 
1,050, between Makovo and the Tcherna, which if held by the 
enemy would have been a thorn in the side of the Allies, was bril- 
liantly carried by French Zouaves. There were minor actions during 
December, but by the end of the year the fighting on the whole 
Salonika front had returned to the normal conditions of trench 
warfare. The campaign, though it did not bring relief to Rumania, 
had not wholly failed. It had compelled Ludendorff to divert 
to Macedonia several Jager battalions that had been destined 
for Orsova. It had restored to Serbia a famous city as an earnest 
of greater things, and it had proved to the world, if proof were 
needed, the heroic steadfastness of her exiled sons. The cautious 
and nerveless strategy of Sarrail crippled the genius of the Serbian 



276 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Aug. 

commander, for had Mishitch been given the free use of the 
reserves, Prilep also might have fallen to his hand. 

During the operations in the north the political situation in 
Greece was marching steadily to a deeper confusion. We have 
seen that the surrender of Fort Rupel had been succeeded on 6th 
June by an Allied blockade of Greek shipping, and that the unsatis- 
factory partial demobilization which M. Skouloudis's Government 
announced had been followed by an Allied ultimatum which led 
to the formation of a " Service " Cabinet under M. Zaimis. The 
new Government was non-party in character, and was pledged 
to carry out in their entirety the Allied demands. Its intention 
was to proceed with new elections so soon as the army had been 
demobilized, and it seemed probable that these elections would 
take place in the middle of August. But the activity of the 
Reservists' Leagues all over the land made it necessary to retard 
the elections, which on 16th August were definitely fixed for 8th 
October. Then came the Bulgarian invasion, and the occupation 
of the better part of eastern Macedonia. The loss of so large a 
slice of Greek territory put any general election out of the ques- 
tion. The surrender of the 4th Corps to the enemy, and the open 
approval given by the military authorities to the extension of the 
Reservists' Leagues had brought things to a pass where normal 
constitutional machinery had little meaning. 

On 27th August M. Venizelos addressed a mass meeting in 
Athens to protest against the Government's attitude towards the 
Bulgarian invasion. He declared that the only policy which could 
save Greece would be for the King to put himself at the head of the 
nation, to remove his evil counsellors, and to take into his full 
confidence the Prime Minister, on whom the Venizelist party were 
willing to bestow their complete trust. The appeal met with no 
response from the King, who refused to receive a Venizelist depu- 
tation, or from the anti-Venizelist parties, which continued to 
organize Royalist demonstrations. M. Zaimis found the task too 
hard for him. Surrounded by pitfalls, and staggered by the 
situation in Macedonia, he contented himself with doing nothing. 
His hesitation played into the hands of the more extreme element 
among the Venizelists, and on 30th August a revolution broke 
out at Salonika. The Cretan gendarmerie and the Macedonian 
volunteers were the chief movers, and a Committee of National 
Defence was formed, under the presidency of Zimbrakakis, an 
artillery colonel, and the Venizelist deputy for Seres. After some 



1916] THE SITUATION IN ATHENS. 277 

disorder General Sarrail interposed to prevent bloodshed, and the 
troops of the Greek 9th Division, quartered at Salonika, either 
joined the movement or allowed themselves to be disarmed. Those 
officers who refused to join were permitted to go to Athens, where 
they were received by the King and publicly thanked for their 
loyalty. 

Meantime, on 1st September, an Allied squadron, consisting of 
twenty-three warships and seven transports, had arrived from 
Salonika, and anchored four miles outside the Piraeus. The Allies 
demanded the arrest and deportation of Baron Schenk and the 
other German agents whose propaganda was exercising a malign 
influence, and the instant suppression of the Reservist Leagues. 
Enraged by these demands, a body of Reservists on 9th September 
demonstrated against the Allies in the gardens of the French 
Legation. M. Zaimis promised satisfaction for the outrage, but 
found himself unable to cope with the anarchical movements now 
breaking out everywhere in the land. On nth September he 
handed in his resignation. He was an honourable and patriotic 
man, who in 1897 had concluded the peace with Turkey, and in 
1906 had succeeded Prince George as High Commissioner of Crete. 
But his sixty-five years lay heavy on him, and his character was 
not masterful enough for so fierce a crisis. 

The King sent for M. Dimitrakopoulos, who had been in the 
Venizelos Cabinet in 1912, and had since then led a small independ- 
ent party. He attempted to form an ordinary political Ministry, 
but this the Allies were unable to accept. On 16th September 
the anti-Venizelist deputy, M. Kalogeropoulos, was invited to con- 
struct a Government. His selection included M. Rouphos, an 
Achaean deputy and a violent anti-Venizelist, and the Minister of 
Foreign Affairs was M. Karapanos, whose sympathies had always 
been anti-Ally. The new Cabinet was, in fact, purely partisan, 
and therefore a defiance of the Note of 21st June. M. Kalogero- 
poulos promised the Allies a policy of " very benevolent neutral- 
ity," declared that as soon as might be he would transform his 
Cabinet into a " Service " Ministry, and disavowed the perform- 
ance of the 4th Corps at Kavala. But in spite of his professions 
the Allies refused to recognize him. 

Meantime the Venizelist movement was taking on a new char- 
acter. On 22nd September M. Venizelos told an interviewer at 
Athens : " If the King will not hear the voice of the people, we 
must ourselves devise what it is best to do. I do not know what 
that will be ; but a long continuation of the present situation 



278 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept.-Oct. 

would be intolerable. Already we have suffered all the agonies 
of a disastrous war, while remaining neutral." That same day 
a battalion of the Greek Revolutionary Army at Salonika left for 
the front. " You are going," Zimbrakakis told them, " to fight 
and expel the enemy who has invaded our native soil." On the 
24th a revolution broke out at Candia, and in ten days the insurgent 
forces, estimated at 30,000, were in complete control of Crete. 
Elsewhere among the islands, at Mytilene and Samos and Chios, 
there were similar movements. Some of the leading Greek gen- 
erals notified the King of their view that the country's interests 
demanded immediate war with Bulgaria. Some seventy deputies, 
till then anti-Venizelist, presented a memorial in favour of inter- 
vention. Late on the night of the 24th M. Venizelos took action. 
He left Athens, like some new Aristides, that he might the better 
return. Accompanied by Admiral Kondouriotis, the Commander- 
in-Chief of the Greek Navy, and many of his followers, he crossed 
to Crete. " I am leaving," he said, " in order to proceed to the 
Greek islands to head the movement which has already begun for 
action against the Bulgarian invader. ... Do not think I am 
heading a revolution in the ordinary sense of the word. The move- 
ment now beginning is in no way directed against the King or his 
dynasty. It is one made by those of us who can no longer stand 
aside and let our countrymen and our country be ravaged by the 
Bulgarian enemy. It is the last effort we can make to induce the 
King to come forth as King of the Hellenes, and to follow the path 
of duty in protection of his subjects. As soon as he takes the reins 
we, all of us, shall be glad and ready at once to follow his flag, as 
loyal citizens led by him against our country's foe." On 30th 
September a triumvirate, consisting of M. Venizelos, Admiral Kon- 
douriotis, and General Danglis, was chosen to direct the destinies 
of the National movement which was soon to become a Provisional 
Government. 

M. Kalogeropoulos's Ministry, now the most embarrassed of 
phantoms, continued to plead for recognition. It even promised, 
under certain conditions, intervention in the war. But the Allies 
remained obdurate, and on 5th October M. Kalogeropoulos gave 
up the hopeless task. Three days later a non-party " Service " 
Cabinet was constructed under Professor Lambros, who was no 
politician and not even a deputy. It was sworn in on 9th October, 
and on that day M. Venizelos, after a visit to some of the islands, 
arrived at Salonika, to be received with enthusiasm. He pro- 
ceeded to form a Cabinet to direct the work of the National move- 



1916] THE LAMBROS MINISTRY. 279 

ment, and at a Conference held by the Allies at Boulogne ten days 
later, his Provisional Government was granted a qualified recogni- 
tion. From that moment Greece was practically, though not 
theoretically, divided into two hostile nations. All the conditions 
of civil war existed, save that the Allies were interposed between 
the combatants. 

The Lambros Ministry had still to satisfy the demands of the 
Powers. On nth October the French admiral Dartige du Fournet, 
commanding the Allied fleet, presented an ultimatum, demanding, 
as a precautionary measure, the handing over of the entire Greek 
fleet, with the exception of three vessels, by one o'clock in the 
afternoon, as well as the control of the Piraeus-Larissa railway. 
The demands were complied with, and in order to preserve order 
while the terms were being fulfilled, it was found necessary on the 
16th to land parties of Allied bluejackets to occupy points in the 
capital. French officers were also appointed to assume control of 
the Greek police. The affair passed off without disorder, and pres- 
ently the sailors were re-embarked, but the King and his Cabinet 
were still far from an understanding with the Powers. The de- 
mobilization went slowly on, but there was much haggling over 
the surrender of munitions. About 25th October the decision of 
the Boulogne Conference was announced in Greece — a decision 
which satisfied neither party, though both claimed that their point 
of view had been recognized. The Venizelist Government in 
Salonika at once declared war on Bulgaria in conformity with what 
they conceived to be their position as allies of the Entente Powers. 
The Lambros Government, on the other hand, traded on its recog- 
nition by the Powers in order to refuse or delay the full satisfac- 
tion of the Powers' demands. One incident increased the bitter- 
ness. Two Greek ships were torpedoed outside the Piraeus by a 
German submarine, and many lives were lost. Some of the pas- 
sengers were Venizelists, and Germany announced her intention 
of sinking any ships carrying adherents of the Provisional Govern- 
ment. In that she was perfectly within her rights, and M. Lam- 
bros's Ministry seemed to accept the explanation as sufficient. 

During November the position became daily more strained. 
On the 24th of the month Admiral du Fournet's patience was 
exhausted. He asked peremptorily for the surrender by 1st 
December of ten mountain batteries, and for the handing over of 
the remaining war material by 15th December. Failing com- 
pliance, he promised to take summary steps to enforce his orders. 
The long delay had bred a dangerous spirit in the Royalists, who 



280 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

had come to believe that they could bluff the Allies indefinitely. 
On the last day of November nothing had been done, and during 
the early morning of ist December French, British, and Italian 
troops were landed at the Piraeus. The King had assured the 
Allied commanders that no disorder need be expected, so the 
contingents were small. They found the capital held in force 
by a Greek corps. The two sides came into collision, and with 
considerable bloodshed the landing-parties were borne back by 
weight of numbers. On this the Allied warships opened fire on 
the Greek positions, whereupon the King proposed an armistice, 
on condition that the bombardment ceased and the troops were 
re-embarked, offering also to hand over six batteries instead of 
the ten stipulated for in the Note. After some haggling the 
armistice was agreed upon. Meantime the Royalists, flushed by 
what they regarded as a victory, proceeded to insult the Allied 
Legations, and to rout out, maltreat, and in many cases murder 
the principal adherents of M. Venizelos in the city. The prisons 
were choked with innocent victims, and for a day or two mob rule 
was rampant in Athens. It was noted that many highly placed 
personages seemed to be personally superintending the campaign 
of outrage. A legend was invented later of a Venizelist plot — 
the common pretext of malefactors to cover their crimes. 

The situation had become both farcical and tragic. The Allies 
had suffered a severe rebuff, and had allowed themselves to be 
fooled by an insignificant Court, a handful of Germanophil staff 
officers, and a rabble of discharged soldiers. A strict blockade 
of the Greek coasts was announced on 7th December. On the 
afternoon of 14th December an ultimatum was presented which 
required a reply within twenty-four hours. The Note demanded 
the withdrawal of the entire Greek force from Thessaly, and the 
transfer to the Peloponnesus of a large proportion of the Greek 
army. Failing compliance, the Allied Ministers were instructed 
to leave Greece, when a state of war would begin. The Greek 
Government, realizing that this time the Allies were not to be 
trifled with, accepted the ultimatum, but after their fashion began 
to quibble about the construction of the terms. 

On 31st December a second Allied Note was delivered, contain- 
ing the demands for military guarantees, and for reparation on 
account of the events of ist and 2nd December. The Greek forces 
outside the Peloponnesus were to be reduced to the number ab- 
solutely required to maintain order, and the surplus disbanded. 
All armaments and munitions beyond the amount required for 



i 9 i6] THE BREAKING OF THE ALLIES' PATIENCE. 281 

this reduced force were to be transported to the Peloponnesus, as 
well as all machine guns and artillery of the Greek army. The 
situation thus established was to be maintained as long as the 
Allied Governments deemed it necessary. Civilians were for- 
bidden to carry arms, and all Reservist meetings were prohibited 
north of the isthmus of Corinth. All political prisoners were to 
be immediately released, and the sufferers from the events of 1st 
and 2nd December were to be indemnified. The general respon- 
sible for the action of the 1st Corps on these dates was to be super- 
seded. Finally, the Greek Government was to apologize to the 
Allied Ministers, and the British, French, Italian, and Russian flags 
were to be formally saluted in a public square in Athens in the 
presence of the Minister of War and the assembled garrison. Mean- 
time the blockade would continue till every jot and tittle of the 
demands had been fulfilled. 

Again the Athens Government quibbled, adopting the method 
of pleading known to English law as confession and avoidance. 
The anti-Venizelist persecution went on, and the Reservists con- 
tinued their meetings. An evasive reply was delivered, and this 
brought a second ultimatum, based upon the decisions reached at 
the Rome Conference in the first week of 1917. King Constantine 
judged shrewdly that he had now arrived at the end of the Allied 
patience. He had been in constant correspondence with Berlin, 
and hoped that the situation would be saved by a German advance 
which would drive Sarrail into the sea. But Germany's obligations 
elsewhere did not permit of a Salonika offensive, and the King 
accordingly accepted the Allies' terms. On January 20, 1917, the 
transfer of the Greek forces to the Peloponnesus began. On 24th 
January the Greek Government formally apologized to the Allied 
Ministers. On Monday, 29th January, in front of the Zappeion, 
the Allied flags were solemnly saluted by soldiers and sailors repre- 
senting all the Greek units left in Athens. The Reservist societies 
at the same time were dissolved by a legislative decree. 

The Allied handling of the Greek problem had never been bril- 
liant, but during the last months of 1916 it seemed to most ob- 
servers in the West to reach a height of fatuity not often attained 
by mortal statecraft. Blunders there were without doubt, but 
facile criticism scarcely recognized the extreme difficulty in which 
the Allies were placed. Their one object was to win the war, to 
prevent any addition to the German resources, and to avoid 
burdening themselves with troublesome problems not germane to 
their military purpose. A united Greece as an ally was beyond 



282 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Jan. 

hope : the blunders of 1915 had made that impossible. The most 
they could look for was some arrangement which would protect 
their Salonika army from an assault in rear. They wished to keep 
Greece quiescent, to avoid having to fight a campaign in Thessaly 
or Attica as well as in Macedonia. It was too often forgotten by 
their critics that a state of civil war in Greece would be more trouble- 
some from a military point of view than a Greek declaration of 
war against the Allies, for it would not be possible to use the fleets 
as a weapon. On the top of their grave preoccupations the Allies 
did not wish to have the ordering of the domestic affairs of a country 
none too easy to order. 

This desire was intelligible and politic. The Allied policy in 
its details may well be criticized — ultimata which were not ulti- 
mate, pin-pricks which did not pierce the skin, Admiral du 
Fournet's landing-parties which were so ill-judged and ineffective. 
But when one plays a trimming game one is apt to wear the appear- 
ance of inefficiency. The Allies sought to keep the peace at almost 
any cost ; they accepted two de facto Greek Governments ; at the 
Rome Conference they tried to stereotype the arrangement and 
prevent either side from increasing its power. The whole situation 
was farcical, but let us recognize that the policy in the main suc- 
ceeded. At the cost of the loss of every kind of international 
dignity official Greece was kept uneasily neutral. 

There were many who advocated a more heroic course. Veni- 
zelos, they said, was the friend of the Allies, and the declared 
enemy of the Teutonic League. He had 30,000 men under arms, 
and, if allowed to make a levy in Greece, might soon have 100,000. 
Let the Allies do as Admiral Noel did in Crete — train their ships' 
guns on the Royal Palace, and compel an abdication. Let Veni- 
zelos be brought to Athens as Regent, and the Provisional Gov- 
ernment established there. Let King Constantine retire to the 
Peloponnesus with his following, and let the isthmus of Corinth 
be an impassable barrier between north and south. Or, if such 
things were impossible, let Venizelos be acknowledged as the true 
ruler of Greece, the Allied legations removed to one of the islands, 
and Athens and south Greece left to dree their weird under a 
strict blockade. If either course were taken, it was argued, every 
Hellene worthy of the name would be fighting actively on the 
Allied side, and the King and his counsellors would be reduced to 
the impotence which was their proper destiny. 

The objection to these heroic courses did not lie in any ten- 
derness to the royal cause. King Constantine, trebly forsworn, 



1917] THL ACHIEVEMENT OF VENIZELOS. 283 

deserved small consideration. It reposed on two uncontroverted 
facts. In the first place, the Allies were not yet agreed in their 
estimate of Venizelos. France was his passionate defender, Britain 
his staunch admirer ; but many elements in Italy looked askance 
on one whose ambitions for his country might presently conflict 
with Italian aspirations, and the Government then in power in 
Russia was naturally hostile to the man who had challenged a 
monarchy. In the second place, the Venizelists were by no means 
the whole of the Greek nation ; by this time it was not even certain 
that they were the larger part. Too much was made of the Ger- 
manophilism of anti-Venizelist Greece. Except in the Court, a 
handful of politicians and the General Staff, there was little love 
for Germany. The opponents of Venizelos were partly his political 
opponents— the narrow politicians who could not look beyond 
parochial ends; they were partly the middle classes, who were 
afraid of bold ventures ; they were very largely the Reservists, 
who strongly objected to be made to fight. They were all the 
creeping things that infest a court. They were simple conservatives, 
with a leaning to royalty. They were the ignorant and super- 
stitious peasants who had that semi-religious veneration for a 
king which is common in the Orthodox Church. Anti-Venizelism 
included the baser elements in the nation ; but it involved also 
elements, narrow and self-centred, indeed, but wholly respectable 
and honest. Venizelos drew to his standard all that was bold and 
generous and far-seeing in Hellenic life ; but such men are rarely 
the majority in a nation. He preached a counsel of perfection 
which was a stumbling-block to commonplace minds. For the 
Allies at that moment to have definitely espoused his cause and 
set him up in power, would have rent the nation in two and 
delivered it over to civil war. If peace at all costs had to be 
preserved, a temporizing policy was the only course left to the 
embarrassed Allied statesmen. 

A recognition of this truth need not blind us to the greatness 
of Venizelos's part and the exceeding dignity and resolution of 
his character. He was called to a harassing work— to make bricks 
without straw, to make war under bonds, to govern and at the 
same time to serve. He could not attack the dynasty, since he 
sought above all things Hellenic unity ; but he had to wait in 
silence while that dynasty oppressed and murdered his supporters. 
He had to content himself with a half-hearted recognition by the 
Allies. He had to submit to restrictions on the natural increment 
of his following. He had to obey often what he thought was the. 



284 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

starkest folly. Yet at all times he took the larger view, and showed 
a patience and a noble absence of vanity which few leaders in 
history have excelled. " I have tried," to quote his own words, 
" not to cause any difficulties for my friends. I am told to evacuate 
Katerini — I evacuate Katerini. I am told to abandon Cerigo — 
I abandon Cerigo. A neutral zone is imposed on me — I respect 
the neutral zone. I am asked to bring my movement to a stand- 
still — I bring it to a. standstill." He was above all things a prac- 
tical statesman, never losing sight of the end, but ready to change 
his means as the occasion demanded. He had seen unmoved the 
failure of his Cretan rising in 1897, and had promptly set himself 
to achieve his purpose by other methods. He had served the 
dynasty when Greece needed it ; he was ready to oppose it when 
it played false to Greece. A passionate patriot, there was nothing 
parochial in his love for his country ; he saw it as part of Europe, 
and no man was ever a better European. Others have had imagina- 
tion and adventurous courage, but few have joined to these qualities 
the surest flair for the practicable and an unearthly patience. 
The vision and the fact, the poetry and the prose of life — it is not 
often that they find union in a single human soul. 

II. 

When Falkenhayn forced the line of the Aluta, and Bucharest 
and Ploeshti fell, the eyes of Rumania turned naturally to the line 
of the Sereth, which for forty years had been the foundation of 
her strategy of defence. She had originally devised the position 
as a bar to a Russian invasion — a defence of Wallachia, should 
Moldavia be overrun. The situation was now reversed. Wallachia 
had gone, the enemy was coming from the west, and the river was 
the last bulwark of Moldavia. The fortifications which she had 
raised there were out of date, and in any case their front was in 
the wrong direction ; but the natural strength of the Sereth line 
remained the same. Its flanks rested securely on the Carpathians 
in the north and the marshy Danube delta in the south. The right 
wing of the defenders must hold the mountain glens which descend 
from the Oitoz and Gyimes passes, the centre the open valley east 
of Focsani, while the left wing had a strong position behind the 
swamps of the lower river between Nomoloasa and Galatz. Such 
a position involved the evacuation of the whole of the Dobrudja, 
and it required that the Moldavian passes from the Gyimes north- 
ward should stand intact. For the northern extension of the 



ig i6] THE ENEMY ADVANCE TO THE SERETH. 285 

Sereth line was the Trotus valley, running from the Gyimes to 
Okna ; if that were forced, the position would be turned and 
Moldavia would be at the mercy of the invader. 

By the end of the first week of December Falkenhayn and 
Mackensen,* now operating together on a front of less than a 
hundred miles between the Buzeu Pass and the Danube, were 
moving eastward against the line of the Buzeu River and the lower 
Jalomitza. Their extreme right wing in the Dobrudja, the Bul- 
garian III. Army, had for its object the clearing of that district, 
the ultimate crossing of the Danube below Galatz, and the invasion 
of Bessarabia. On their left the Austrian I. Army was to attempt 
the forcing of the passes north of the Oitoz. The Rumanian cam- 
paign had now a very direct bearing upon the whole Russian posi- 
tion in the Bukovina and Galicia. If the Moldavian passes were 
forced, Lechitski would be outflanked and compelled to retire 
from the Bukovina, and the gains of the summer south of the 
Dniester would be lost. This fact, combined with the extreme 
fatigue of the Rumanian forces, meant that the campaign must 
now be in Russia's hands. Her reinforcements had at last arrived 
— reinforcements which, if they had come earlier, might have pre- 
vented the loss of Wallachia. Gourko, who was acting as Chief 
of Staff during Alexeiev's illness, did his best ; but he had much 
leeway to make up, and the Rumanian railways were utterly disor- 
ganized. Lechitski's left wing, a reserve corps under Denikin, 
had, since the beginning of November, taken over the defence 
of the Moldavian passes. Sakharov was in command on the 
Danube ; and after the fall of Bucharest was entrusted with the 
defence of the Sereth line, since the bulk of the Rumanians were 
withdrawn behind the front, to be reorganized under Averescu 
and Presan, now his Chief of Staff. The Rumanian sector had 
become the fourth division of the long Russian front. 

The enemy movement was a wheel to the north-east, the left 
wing, under Falkenhayn, advancing slowly along the railway from 
Ploeshti to Rimnic Sarat, while Kosch moved faster in the region 
towards the river, and the Bulgarians in the Dobrudja swung due 
north against Sakharov. The weary Rumanian detachment which 
had been fighting in the Predeal district made its escape, not 
without heavy losses, from the Prahova valley, and fought a stout 
rearguard action east of Ploeshti, on the Cricovul River. But 
only delaying actions were possible. By 14th December Falken- 

* Mackensen was now in command of a group, Kosch taking over the Danube 
army. 



286 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Jan. 

hayn was in the town of Buzeu, and Kosch was across the Jalomitza. 
On the 17th the former had passed the river Buzeu on a wide front, 
and the latter was just south of Filipeshti. That same day, in 
the Dobrudja, Sakharov had fallen back thirty miles to a line 
running through the town of Babadag. 

The immediate enemy objectives north of the Danube were 
the towns of Rimnic Sarat and Braila, the only two Wallachian 
centres still uncaptured. Mackensen resolved to avoid a direct 
attack on Braila, and to carry it by a turning movement in the 
Dobrudja. He concentrated his main strength on Rimnic Sarat, 
and after a four days' battle, beginning on 22nd December, en- 
tered the town on 27th December, taking many prisoners. On 
Christmas Day Kosch carried Filipeshti, and the victory at Rimnic 
Sarat compelled the defence in that region to fall back to Peri- 
chora. The next move was with the Bulgarians in the Dobrudja. 
By 23rd December Sakharov's left had reached the Danube 
delta, and had crossed by the pontoon bridges at Tulcea and 
Isaccea to the Bessarabian shore. Beyond that there could be 
no movement, for the vast floating marshes of the delta, which 
are neither land nor water, defied the enemy. That same day 
Sakharov's remaining troops were concentrated in the extreme 
north-west corner of the district in front of the town of Machin. 
Machin lies at the point where the right branch of the river, which 
breaks off north of Hirshova, turns sharply to the west to join the 
left branch. It is only six miles from Braila, and formed its natural 
defence from the east. But such a position, with no good avenues 
of retreat, could not be safely held by Sakharov's remnant. On 
January 4, 1917, Machin was evacuated, and the Dobrudja was 
now wholly in the enemy's hands. The Rumanian retreat had 
here been most skilfully managed, for though it traversed a des- 
perate country in the depths of winter, a country with scarcely 
a road and with a broad river to pass at the end, it lost no more 
than 6,000 men. The Bulgarian guns now opened against Braila, 
and since that place formed no part of the Sereth position, it was 
evacuated. On 5th January Kosch from the west and the Bul- 
garians from across the Danube joined hands in its streets. That 
same day the first German troops reached the Sereth east of the 
mouth of the Buzeu. The invaders were now in front of the final 
defences. 

Falkenhayn, farther north, had still to come into line. Pivot- 
ing on Kosch's new position, he swung north-eastward towards 
Focsani. The strength of the Sereth line was known, and it was 



1917] THE PLUNDERING OF WALLACHIA. 287 

on the left wing in the foothills, under Krafft von Delmensingen, 
that the success of the greater operations must depend. Before 
the Trotus valley is reached a number of lesser streams flow east- 
ward to the Sereth ; and the Trotus itself receives on its right 
bank various small affluents. Each of these glens formed a defen- 
sive outpost for the main Trotus line. Here Falkenhayn's extreme 
left was operating in conjunction with the right of the Austrian 
I. Army. The defence had not only to face the enemy advancing 
from the south-west, but also flanking attacks from the west and 
north through the high passes. For a fortnight — the first fort- 
night of 1917 — a swaying battle was waged among the foothills. 
On 8th January Falkenhayn entered Focsani, and from Neneshti 
for thirty miles northward occupied the banks of the Sereth. But 
the limit had been reached, and the advance was stayed. We 
may take 15th January as the date at which the Rumanian re- 
treat definitely ended. Wallachia had gone, but Moldavia was 
intact, and a line had been found on which the defence could 
abide. 

It was not till the end of the month that Mackensen desisted 
from his efforts. On 19th January he attempted to force the 
centre opposite Fundeni, but after a bloody battle failed to do 
more than clear the west bank of the river. Such a frost had set 
in as the oldest peasant in Rumania could not remember. The 
temperature stood below zero for weeks on end, and the Bul- 
garians in the Dobrudja attempted to turn the weather to their 
advantage. On the morning of 23rd January, in a thick fog, they 
pushed through the frozen marshes of the Danube delta, and 
managed to cross the channel of the river north of Tulcea. It 
was a barren exploit, for the Rumanians fell upon and annihilated 
the detachment. The frost, which put the left flank of the de- 
fence in peril, was the salvation of the right flank in the moun- 
tains. Mackensen could not force the centre, and was compelled 
to depend upon his wings ; but Krafft von Delmensingen and the 
Austrian I. Army found that the Carpathian winter immobilized 
them more effectively than any entrenchments of their opponents. 
A winter peace fell upon the hills. 

The invader wreaked his vengeance upon hapless Wallachia. 
Disappointed in his hopes of great stores of grain and oil, he con- 
tented himself with introducing the methods of administration 
with which he had experimented in Belgium and Poland. He 
requisitioned everything, and left the people to starve. He com- 
pelled the whole civilian population between eighteen and forty- 



288 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Jan. 

two to work for him. He drove the embassies of neutral nations 
from Bucharest, that there might be no witnesses of his doings. 
He levied great sums as indemnities. He dispatched to Germany 
many members of the chief families as hostages, and used them 
as hostages have always been treated by a barbarous enemy. The 
Rumanian Government at Jassy could only look on in impotent 
wrath, and in its heart add new counts to the long reckoning. 
Meanwhile the Rumanian Parliament had met at Jassy on 22nd 
December, and King Ferdinand in his speech from the throne had 
endeavoured to encourage his people. " Our army has sustained 
the struggle according to the glorious traditions of our ancestors, 
and in a way which justifies us in regarding the future with perfect 
confidence. So far the war has imposed upon us great hardships 
and profound sacrifices. We shall bear them with courage, for 
we maintain a complete trust in the final victory of our allies ; 
and in spite of difficulties and sufferings, we are determined to 
struggle by their side with energy unto the end. . . . Before the 
common peril we must all show an added patriotism and unity 
of heart and mind." 

On the 24th a proof was given of the national unity by the 
formation of a Coalition Government, which included M. Take 
Jonescu and some members of his party. The old Conservatives 
had disappeared from practical politics. Carp, still living in dread 
of Russia, frankly announced that, since Rumania's victory must 
be Russia's victory, he desired Rumania to be beaten. Marghi- 
loman refused Bratianu's offer to join the National Ministry, and 
remained in Bucharest, where he hobnobbed with his country's 
enemies. Meantime the Government at Jassy most wisely set 
about the reform of certain domestic abuses, the existence of which 
had crippled Rumania in war. A scheme of universal and direct 
suffrage was drawn up to replace the old electoral college system, 
under which the peasants and working classes had been virtually 
defranchised. Even more urgent was the question of land reform, 
for the Rumanian system of land tenure was still mediaeval. Ab- 
sentee landlords and speculative middlemen had divorced the 
peasant from the soil of his country. A scheme was prepared to 
give a large grant of Crown lands and to purchase vast areas com- 
pulsorily from the chief landowners, with the result that the per- 
centage of the country under peasant proprietorship would rise 
from 53 to 85. Such reforms were an immediate necessity if the 
rank and file were to be sustained under their crushing burdens, 
and they were of vital import to the whole Alliance. They ex- 



igi 7 J THE WINTER IN RUSSIA. 289 

tended the principles of democracy within the ranks of those who 
were democracy's champions. 

When, in the beginning of 1917, the Austro-German threat 
against the Sereth line was made manifest, Russia, according to 
the rules of sound strategy, attempted a diversion on another part 
of the front. Russki pushed westward from Riga on 5th January 
over the frozen marshes, and carried the village of Kalntsem, west 
of the great Tirul marsh, taking some 800 prisoners and sixteen 
guns. He was immediately counter-attacked, but managed to 
hold the ground won. On the 9th a second Russian attack was 
made about fifteen miles north of Dvinsk, and the island in the 
Dvina east of Glaudan was captured. The battle in the Riga 
sector continued for some days, and altogether thirty-two guns 
were taken. On the 24th a violent German counter-attack re- 
covered some of the ground lost, taking about 1,000 prisoners. 
A second followed on the 30th, in the sector between Kalntsem 
and Lake Babit, and again there was a slight withdrawal. During 
the same month there was some fighting in the corner of the Buko- 
vina between Dorna Watra and Kimpolung ; but the divided 
command on that wing made success impossible, for Lechitski 
reported to Brussilov, the Rumanian armies to their King, and 
Sakharov direct to Alexeiev. All these actions were subsidiary to 
the Rumanian campaign, and meant no more than that Russia, 
when she believed that a bit of the enemy front had been weakened 
by the withdrawal of divisions to Mackensen, took the opportunity 
of testing its strength. In that fierce weather no large movement 
could be contemplated. A frozen marsh might give her the chance 
of a local attack, but the front as a whole was bound in the rigours 
of a Russian winter. 

Even had the weather been favourable, it is doubtful whether 
Russia could have done more than devise here and there a small 
diversion. She was busy rearranging her forces for the conjoined 
Allied offensive of the new year, and had accumulated a reserve 
of some sixty fresh divisions. She had already sustained over 
four million casualties, and at the moment was maintaining about 
ten million men under arms. Alexeiev and Gourko were straining 
every nerve to complete the armament and training of the new 
troops. There was also another reason. For some months it 
had been growing fatally clear that the Government and the so- 
called governing classes were not the equal of the nation and the 
army. There were elements there of scandalous corruption ; there 



2go A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

were sections whose sympathies were avowedly with German 
bureaucracy rather than with Russian freedom ; there were many 
who feared democracy as a foul skin dreads cold water ; there were 
sinister influences at work whose power lay in the erotic and neuro- 
tic mysticism of the East. All these dark things, fearing daylight 
and the will of a liberated people, had affinities with Germany, 
and could not face with comfort the defeat of the great absolutist 
Power. It was to such elements that Germany appealed in her 
attempts at a separate peace. The first was in the summer of 
1915, when the reactionary ministers, Sukhomlinov, Shcheglovitov, 
and Maklakov, fell from power. That attempt was frustrated by 
the influence of the army and the Duma, which grew as the skies 
darkened during the Great Retreat. But the sun of prosperity 
in 1916 brought the parasites to life again. M. Boris Sturmer 
became Prime Minister in succession to M. Goremykin, and in 
August M. Sazonov, the Foreign Minister, and in many ways 
Russia's ablest civilian statesman, was dismissed, and his portfolio 
taken over by the Premier. Once again Germany made a bid, 
and with some hope of success. 

The terms suggested as a basis for discussion embraced the 
opening of the Bosphorus and the Hellespont, the offer to Russia 
of Armenia and Persia, Eastern Galicia, the Bukovina, and part 
of Moldavia, an independent Poland with a Russian Grand Duke 
as king, and certain special rights for Germans in Lithuania and 
in the Baltic provinces. The proposals were reasonable and at- 
tractive, for Germany very seriously meant business. But there 
was never for one moment a chance of a separate peace. Had 
the Russian Government accepted any such overtures, there would 
have been a revolution next morning — a revolution both bloodless 
and final, for the Army would have engineered it. But the pur- 
blind eyes of the bureaucrats were not open to this certainty. 
There was a serious risk that they might commit themselves to 
some folly, and, in dread of popular reprisals, attempt to stir up 
an abortive revolt, which they could use as an excuse for stern 
reactionary measures. M. Protopopov was added to the Ministry, 
with the portfolio of the Interior, and this kindled the suspicions 
of patriotic Russia. He had been Vice-President of the Duma, an 
Octobrist and a member of the Progressist bloc ; but for some 
unknown reason he had changed his side, apparently on his return 
from his visit to Britain in the spring, and had become an ally of 
the reactionaries. 

On Tuesday, 14th November, the Duma met. It was a stormy 



1916] MILIUKOV ATTACKS THE GOVERNMENT. 291 

sitting, and the Ministry was torn to shreds by the Progressist 
critics. In especial, M. Miliukov, the leader of the Cadets, at- 
tacked the Premier in one of the most outspoken speeches ever 
made on Russian soil. He accused him of corruption and anti- 
patriotism, and he did not hesitate to name the dark forces behind 
him. Patriotic members of every group supported the Cadet 
leader, and M. Sturmer was left with the alternatives of dissolving 
the Duma or resigning. The Emperor refused to permit the first 
course, and accordingly the Premier went out of office, though 
not out of power, for he was immediately given a high Court 
appointment. His fall was brought about not only by M. Miliu- 
kov's speech, but by his mishandling of the food question and the 
Rumanian situation, and by the fact that the Army chiefs were to 
a man his opponents. He was succeeded by M. Trepov, who as 
Minister of Communications had done good work in the construc- 
tion of the new railways. M. Trepov was a strong conservative, 
and far removed in sympathy from the bloc ; but he was a Nation- 
alist and an honest man, and he earnestly desired to come to a 
working agreement with the Duma, for he realized that on such 
an alliance Russia's military efficiency in the near future would 
largely depend. He was a statesman of the Stolypin type, who 
believed that somehow or other the work of Government must 
be carried on. 

His aim was a Ministry of experts and business men, a mobili- 
zation of the best national talent. But he was handicapped from 
the start, for he was compelled to retain the deeply suspect M. 
Protopopov at the Interior. When the Duma met again on 2nd 
December after ten days' adjournment the situation was little 
easier. The new Premier was able to announce for the first time 
in public the agreement of 1915 between Russia, France, Britain, 
and Italy, which definitely established Russia's right to Constanti- 
nople and the Straits. He made an eloquent appeal to all parties 
to close up their ranks, and promised various domestic reforms ; 
but he was heard impatiently, for so long as M. Protopopov re- 
mained in the Cabinet there could be no co-operation even with 
the conservative elements in the Duma. The demand of all the 
Nationalist parties was now the same — for Ministers who had the 
confidence of the nation. It was men and not measures that were 
sought ; a Cabinet of single-minded statesmen who in civil life 
could reproduce something of the clean and steadfast purpose of 
the soldiers. It was an aim endorsed not only by the Duma but 
by the Council of the Empire and by the Congress of the Nobility. 



2Q2 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Jan. 

With the new year it became plain to the world that Russia's 
political life was approaching a crisis. All her commands, both 
civil and military, seemed to be in the melting pot. General 
Schuvaiev, who had been Minister of War since March 1916, and 
had the complete confidence of the Duma, was removed in January, 
and his place given to a comparatively obscure soldier, General 
Bieliaev, who had the favour of the Court. At the same time an 
epidemic of ill-health fell upon other ministers, and three — the 
Ministers of Finance, Commerce, and Foreign Affairs — were granted 
sick leave. M. Trepov, having held the office of Premier for just 
six weeks, retired, and gave place to Prince N. D. Golitzin, an 
undisguised reactionary ; and Count Ignatiev, the only Liberal 
member of the Ministry, was removed from the Department of 
Education. There were signs that the sinister influence of M. 
Protopopov, the Minister of the Interior, was growing. The Em- 
peror, in a rescript to Prince Golitzin, outlined the duties of the 
Government — a procedure which had not been adopted since 1905, 
and which seemed to foreshadow a still further weakening of con- 
stitutional government and a relapse into autocracy. The food 
question, too, was growing serious. It had been scandalously 
mismanaged, and in a great grain-producing country like Russia 
food was scarcer among the people than with grain-importing 
belligerents who had all the difficulties of oversea transport. A 
dangerous spirit was rising in all classes of society, for it seemed 
clear that such a result could not have come about without cor- 
ruption and bungling in high quarters. Finally, the armies at 
the front had much to complain of in the way of faulty transport 
and inadequate supplies. 

The Emperor in his rescript touched upon these matters. " At 
the present moment," he wrote, " when the tide of the Great War 
has turned, all the thoughts of all Russians, without distinction 
of nationality or class, are directed towards the valiant and glorious 
defenders of our country, who with keen expectation are awaiting 
the decisive encounter with the enemy. In complete union with 
our faithful Allies, not entertaining any thought of a conclusion 
of peace until final victory has been secured, I firmly believe that 
the Russian people, supporting the burden of war with self-denial, 
will accomplish their duty to the end, not stopping at any sacrifice. 
The national resources of our country are unending, and there is 
no danger of their becoming exhausted, as is apparently the case 
with our enemies." This, said the ordinary Russian, was very 
well in its way ; but the armies were not well supported, the poor 



1917] THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM. 293 

were not fed, and the blame for this did not lie upon the Russian 
people, who had no real say in the government. The events of 
January caused a dark shadow of doubt to creep over the face 
of the State. The people saw strange forces at work which they 
could not interpret, but which they profoundly mistrusted. The 
Government, patched and tinkered at by the autocracy, was 
inadequate to the temper of the nation. Russia was notoriously 
a slow and patient country, and shrewd observers on the spot 
about this time, while admitting that revolt some day was in- 
evitable, considered that it would be postponed till peace. But 
those familiar with the incalculable ways of revolutions refrained 
from prophesying. They knew that during a period of apparent 
calm some chance event — a speech, a manifesto, a street riot, a 
sudden death — may bring the bolt from the lowering sky. 



CHAPTER LXVII. 

THE FRENCH ADVANCE AT VERDUN. 

October 21-December 18, 1916. 

Charles toangin — Nivelle's Dispositions — Capture of Douaumont and Vaux — The 
December Battle — Losses and gains. 



It is a feature of great campaigns that certain places arrogate to 
themselves an importance which is not their due under the strict 
laws of strategy. They may have acquired this significance for 
military reasons, but they are apt to retain it when those reasons 
have gone. A spell hangs over them which sways unconsciously 
the minds of men. Once they may have been fortresses or sally- 
ports or ganglia of communications ; but the fortress may be 
battered to earth, the sally-port blocked, and the routes of traffic 
diverted, and they will stil possess an illogical but compelling 
power. The tides of battle may flow in far other channels, but 
neither side can cut itself loose from the old battle-ground. Ypres 
was such a case, and Verdun was another. To Germany the latter 
was in very truth a damnosa hareditas. Her success had been 
so triumphantly advertised, that for very shame's sake she was 
fain to keep up the show of consummating it. When the Somme 
offensive was unleashed, she still continued her efforts to break 
the Froideterre-Fleury-Souville line of defence. She tried desper- 
ately on nth July, and again on 1st August. On 21st July the 
Imperial Crown Prince told his troops : " The French count on 
our relinquishing our pressure on Verdun now that they have 
begun their attack on the Somme. We will show them that they 
are deceived." But the showing did not come. August saw 
Fleury firmly in French hands, and with the abortive attempt of 
3rd September to advance from the Bois du Chapitre the enemy's 
strength seemed to be exhausted. By that date the grim Picardy 
struggle had drawn to it every spare battery and battalion on his 
Western front. 



1916] THE SPELL OF VERDUN. 295 

Germany would fain have let the Meuse uplands fall into the 
stagnation of the Vosges and the Aisne, but she was not permitted 
to cry out of the contest she had set. For France had taken up 
the gage in deadly earnest. For her, too, Verdun had become a 
test of prowess, a palladium not to be valued by common standards. 
It was not enough to have stood fast ; the time had come to advance. 
No triumphs on the Somme could wholly divert her eyes from that 
awful battlefield where she had won a glory not excelled by the 
victories of Austerlitz and Marengo. Verdun was the predestined 
soil on which, above all other spots, the enemy must reap the 
bitter harvest he had sown. In such a resolve there was something 
antique and splendid, some touch of that far-reaching imagination 
and poetry with which France has so often astonished the world. 
It was a strange land on which to set one's affections. The map 
might show the names of woods and villages and ravines, but these 
features were no longer there. From Fort Souville, looking north, 
the eye saw nothing but desert, pitted and hummocked as by the 
eruption of gigantic earthworms. No tree or masonry broke the 
desolation. The very gullies and glens, the quarries and the 
crests, had been beaten out of their old shapes. There were 
hundreds of thousands of men in the landscape, burrowing below 
that fretted soil, but there was no sign of them. Only the naked 
ridges of Douaumont, Froideterre, and Vaux were left of what had 
once been a pleasantly diversified countryside. But in every 
square yard of that landscape lay France's dead. 

The fighting at Verdun from October 24 to December 18, 1916, 
may be regarded as a distinct and complete episode in the campaign. 
Beyond weakening the enemy's man-power and moral it had no 
direct bearing upon the main strategy. The terrain was self-con- 
tained, and the offensive — conducted as it was in wintry weather 
— did not spread to other areas. But as an episode it may well 
be regarded by the historian as one of the greatest in the war. It 
was a thing perfect alike in conception and execution, like some 
noble lyric interpolated in a great drama. At Verdun all that 
had been learned during the two years of war, and in especial the 
lessons of the Somme, were put into practice. The use of stand- 
ing and creeping barrages, the new trench weapons, the art of 
consolidating ground, the nettoyage of captured trenches, the rela- 
tion of missile to cold steel — in these and a thousand other problems 
the Allied view was brilliantly vindicated. The test was a hard 
one, for the enemy was prepared ; he was equal in numbers to 
the actual attacking force ; and the advance was a frontal one 



296 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct. 

made over a country as bald and exposed as the granite top of a 
mountain. 

A new figure enters into the list of France's soldiers. Petain 
had held the fort in the dark days of the spring of 1916, and Nivelle 
had borne the burden of the long summer battles. The latter still 
commanded the Second Army from the Argonne to Lorraine, but 
the coming attack was entrusted to a group of divisions under 
Charles Mangin. A man of fifty, Mangin was one of that great 
brotherhood of colonial generals which included Joffre, Gallieni, 
Lyautey, Gouraud, and Passaga. Born of a distinguished Lorraine 
family, which for generations had been eminent in the law and the 
army, he had served since his twenty-fourth year in Tonkin and 
in every part of northern Africa, and had been one of Marchand's 
companions in the great march from the Congo to the Nile. He 
had made himself the first authority on colonial campaigning, and 
had written a famous book on the fighting stuff which France pos- 
sessed in her dark-skinned subjects. He was at home at the out- 
break of the Great War, and was given command of the 8th Brigade 
in the Fifth Army, that army which took the shock of the first 
German onset at Charleroi. At the Marne he led the 5th Division 
in the 3rd Corps ; he was heavily engaged at the First Battle of 
the Aisne ; he was in the Artois fighting in the summer of 1915 ; 
and early in 1916 was in the Frise area south of the Somme. At 
the end of March 1916 he came with his division to Verdun, and 
led his men to the recapture of La Caillette Wood, and on 22nd 
May to the glorious and short-lived reconquest of Douaumont. In 
June he received a corps, the new 3rd Colonial Corps, and was 
given charge of the crucial sector on the right bank of the Meuse. 
In appearance he was a typical soldier of France, with his dark, 
stiff thatch of hair, his skin tanned by African suns, his iron jaw, 
his piercing black eyes that held both humour and fire. There 
was thought in his face as well as ardour and resolution, and he 
had that first requisite of great captains, imagination and an insight 
into the hearts of his troops. No man could speak more appositely 
that word which nerves the soldier to desperate ventures. 

Since the land from Haudromont to Damloup was without cover, 
and was commanded by the enemy on the high ground at Douau- 
mont and Fort Vaux, it was clear that a series of local actions 
would not avail. Any position won by these would be at once 
rendered untenable, and only a grand assault pushed forward to 
the main objectives would serve the French purpose. But since 
this would mean a frontal attack over difficult country, it demanded 



i 9 i6] MANGIN'S PLAN. 297 

for its success the most meticulous preparation. Mangin proposed 
to make the attempt with three divisions in line — three divisions 
which had already held the sector and knew every inch of it. These 
were the 38th Division under Guyot de Salins, composed of Zouaves, 
Colonial infantry, and those Moroccan and Algerian troops which 
had first won their spurs at Dixmude ; and the 133rd and 74th 
Divisions of Passaga and Lardemelle, composed of chasseurs and 
infantry of the line from every district of France. One division 
was taken out of the line at the end of August, and the other two 
at the end of September, and withdrawn to a back area for training 
and rest. That training was carried out on a piece of ground 
modelled to reproduce the actual terrain, and in especial an exact 
counterpart of Fort Douaumont was constructed, so that every 
man of the attacking force should know the work assigned to him. 
Moreover, the training included practice in the new tactics of as- 
sault learned on the Somme, which had not yet been tried in the 
Verdun area. As regards materiel, there was a great increase in bat- 
teries and stores of shells, and much road-making and laying of light 
railways to ensure the rapid passage of munitions. Two divisions 
were left in the sector of assault, and for twenty days in the inces- 
sant rain of October these had a heavy time preparing trenches, dug- 
outs, headquarter posts, dressing-stations, and cover for the guns. 

In October the enemy held the front between Avocourt and 
Les Eparges with fifteen divisions, of which seven were in first 
line. Between Haudromont and Damloup battery he had twenty- 
one battalions in front line, seven in support, and ten in reserve. 
After the battle the Germans, following their familiar practice, 
announced that they had long resolved to evacuate the positions 
they had lost, and were in the act of doing so when the French 
attacked. Captured documents told a different tale. One com- 
mander enlarged on the immense importance of Douaumont, and 
the necessity of safeguarding the German hold on it. An army 
order of Lochow, dated 18th September, enjoined the strengthen- 
ing of the front and the preparation of reserve positions. As late 
as 23rd October we find the German commanders perfectly alive to 
the imminence of a French attack, and making plans to meet it, 
while urging their men to hold their ground at all costs. Mangin's 
intentions were well known to his opponents, and his attack had 
nothing of the nature of a surprise. They had no inclination to 
cede anything, least of all the vital Douaumont ; and they believed 
that they were strong enough to beat him off, for on the ground 
they had over 200 batteries and equal numbers of men. 



298 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct. 

On Saturday, 21st October, the French guns opened, directed 
by kite balloons and airplanes, in the one brief spell of clear weather 
which October showed. Mangin had 289 field and mountain 
pieces, and 314 heavy guns. Methodically from hour to hour the 
enemy lines were pounded to atoms. The Verdun area, like the 
Somme, was losing its old nomenclature, and becoming a tangle 
of uncouth trench names. The enemy had been busy since mid- 
summer, and had a vast number of new trenches — on the skirts 
of the woods of Chenois and Chapitre, and the neck of ridge which 
links the Souville and Douaumont uplands, and in and around the 
quarries of Haudromont. Every little ravine which cut the slopes 
had become a nest of dug-outs. On all these new works the French 
artillery played night and day, till the quarries and gullies were 
choked with rubble. On Sunday, the 22nd, a heavy shell landed 
in Douaumont fort, and there was the glare of a great fire. That 
same day a feint of the infantry obliged the enemy to reveal his 
new batteries, and many of them were marked down and shelled. 
That night a captured German pigeon message showed that things 
were in a bad way in the enemy's front line. Instant relief was 
begged for, and a hundred deserters came over, including an 
officer, who was rash enough to prophesy. " You will never retake 
Douaumont," he said, " any more than we shall take Verdun." 

On the 23rd the three divisions of assault moved up to take 
their places in the assembly trenches, relieving the muddy and 
weary troops who for three weeks had been preparing the ground. 
The frontage was, roughly, seven kilometres, and the French posi- 
tion extended from the Wood of Haudromont just south of the 
quarries, skirting the Wood of Nawe, covering Fleury village, to 
the south edge of the Chemin Wood north of Laufee fort. It had 
been decided to conduct the operation in two stages. The first 
objective was a line formed by the Haudromont quarries, the ridge 
north of the Ravin de la Dame, the trench north of Thiaumont 
farm, the Fausse C6te battery, the north-east side of Chapitre 
Wood, the Viola trench in the Fumin Wood, and the Steinmetz 
trench before Damloup battery. After consolidating on this line 
the troops would advance to their final objective— the ridge north 
of the Couleuvre ravine, Douaumont village and fort, the north 
and east sides of the Fausse C6te ravine, the pond of Vaux, the 
Siegen trench west of the Fumin ravine, and Damloup battery. 
On the French left was the division of Guyot de Salins, directed 
upon Haudromont, Thiaumont, and Douaumont ; in the centre 
Passaga's division, moving upon the Wood of La Caillette ; and 



1916] CAPTURE OF DOUAUMONT FORT. 299 

on the right Lardemelle's division, with before it the Fumin, 
Chapitre, and Chenois woods, and the battery of Damloup. Be- 
tween the divisions there was a noble emulation. " On your 
left," Passaga told his men, " you have the famous Africans. 
You are disputing for the honour of retaking Fort Douaumont. 
Let them know that they can count on us to support them, to 
open the door for them, and to share their glory." 

By the morning of Tuesday, 24th October, while the guns still 
thundered, the clear weather had gone, and a thick autumn fog 
hung over the uplands. The valley of the Meuse was hidden, and 
even the next ridge a quarter of a mile away. The hour fixed for 
the assault was late, to enable the light to improve ; and at ten 
minutes to twelve, when the troops went over the parapets, the 
haze was lifting, and the French airplanes were droning in the sky. 
Through the muddy fringes of the old woods and along the back 
of Froideterre went the three divisions, methodically, calmly, and 
with perfect certitude. It was like the ground round cavalry 
pickets, where every yard is churned and trodden. But here it 
was as if the trampling had been done by cohorts of mammoths 
and mastodons. 

Success came at once. At Mangin's headquarters Joffre, Nivelle, 
and Petain had arrived to watch the fortunes of the day, and 
presently through the raw October weather came telephone mes- 
sages of a surprising and economical triumph. It was clear that 
the plan of the two stages must be forgone, for the three divisions 
were making one mouthful of the whole objective. Hordes of 
grey-clad prisoners came running back through the mist till, to the 
troops in reserve, it seemed that the men surrendering must far 
outnumber the attackers. At half-past two in the afternoon the 
wind rose and dispersed the haze, and from the observation posts 
near Souville the French infantry were seen moving up the slopes 
of Douaumont. At three came the news from the aircraft that 
they were in the fort. Before the dark fell every objective had 
been gained, and over 4,500 prisoners, including 130 officers, were 
on their way to the French rear. 

Let us examine the progress of the day. On the extreme left 
the nth Regiment attacked the Haudromont quarries, which had 
been turned into a gigantic fort. The place was encircled and 
mastered after a fierce struggle with grenades in the main quarry, 
and an enemy counter-attack beaten off. On their right the left 
wing of Guyot de Salins moved through the relics of the Wood of 
Nawe on the Ravin de la Dame as their first objective, and the 



300 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct. 

Couleuvre ravine as their second. These two gullies lay on the south- 
ern side of the depression into which the Douaumont-Bras road 
dipped after leaving the tableland. The 4th Regiment of Zouaves 
and the colonial tirailleurs had won their second objective by two 
o'clock, and patrols had pushed as far as the Helly ravine north 
of the Bras road. In the deeper dug-outs some of the enemy 
remained, ignorant of what was happening above ground. That 
night a French sergeant wandering among the shell-holes was taken 
prisoner by a party of Germans, and pushed into a subterranean 
chamber where dinner was being served. He asked where he was, 
and was told " The Ravin de la Dame." In return, he told them 
that Thiaumont and Douaumont had fallen, and had the satis- 
faction of taking back to his line 200 prisoners and six machine 
guns. 

Guyot de Salins's right had a like success. A Moroccan 
battalion carried Thiaumont fort and farm, and a Zouave bat- 
talion coming after them flung themselves on Douaumont village. 
There now remained only Douaumont fort, a grim hump on 
the crest seen dimly through the fog. Its conquest had been 
reserved for two battalions of the Moroccans. One, under 
Commandant Modat, launched the assault, and carried the first 
objective. Then they halted to organize, and through them passed 
Commandant Croll's men, whose duty it was to turn the defence 
of the fort on right and left. Behind them came the spearhead, 
the battalion under Commandant Nicolay, which was destined for 
the actual storm. They were all picked men, and for weeks had 
been practised upon this very problem, till each man knew every 
yard of the objective like his own name. For a moment, but only 
for a moment, they lost direction in the mist. Then the brume 
opened, and disclosed their goal ; and, after a second's halt, while 
each man gazed with reverence at a place so famous and so long 
in mind, they swept upon it through the German barrage, one of 
their own airplanes flying low above them. They scrambled over 
the fosse, carried the outer works, and bombed the remaining 
garrison out of the chambers. It was only three hours since they 
had left their parapets. 

The centre division, under Passaga, had the longest road to 
travel. Advancing from Fleury, it had to cross the Bazil ravine, 
where ran the railway from Verdun to Vaux, and beyond that 
the Wood of La Caillette, honeycombed with trenches. It had a 
difficult starting-place, for at that point the enemy front formed a 
small salient, and accordingly the rate of advance of the different 



1916] CAPTURE OF FORT VAUX. 301 

units had to be nicely calculated. General Ancelin, commanding 
the left brigade, fell early in the day, and was replaced by Colonel 
Hutin, who had won fame in the Cameroons fighting. In fifty- 
eight minutes the division had attained its two objectives, and held 
a line from just east of Douaumont fort to the slopes north of the 
Fausse C6te ravine and west of Vaux pond. There, as the mist 
lightened, they watched with wild excitement the Colonials on 
their left carry Douaumont. 

The fiercest fighting fell to the right division, under Lardemelle. 
The shoulder of hill crowned by Vaux fort was a difficult problem 
in itself, and it had been defended by the enemy with a perfect 
spider's web of trenches. The terrain was bounded on the left 
by the Souville-Vaux road descending the Fontaines ravine, and 
on the right by the Damloup battery on the steep overhanging 
the VVoevre. The intervening space was occupied with the debris 
of three woods and a number of little ravines. The Germans 
had constructed a strong front line from just north of Souville 
to the La Gayette ridge above Damloup, including the trenches 
named Moltke, Clausewitz, Mudra, Steinmetz, and Werder. Be- 
hind was an intermediate line with as points in it the work called 
Petit Depot and the battery of Damloup. The second line, a 
kilometre or more behind the front line, ran from the place where 
the Fontaines ravine begins to open into the Vaux valley, and 
included the trenches of Hanau, Siegen, de Saales, and Damloup 
village. Lardemelle's men were troops of the line and chasseurs, 
in large part contingents brought from Dauphine and Savoy. Their 
first rush took them into most of the first objective ; but Clause- 
witz trench held out till three o'clock. The intermediate line 
followed, but it was eight o'clock before it was all captured, the 
Petit Dep6t being the last point to fall. Early in the day Dam- 
loup battery had been brilliantly carried by the 30th Regiment. 
But the second line was not touched, and all through the night 
there was fierce fighting, where the Savoyards of the 230th Regi- 
ment were engaged in the Wood of Fumin and the east side of 
the Fontaines ravine. In such a war as this night brought no 
peace to either side, and through the mud and the darkness the 
battle continued. The combat had now centred itself on the 
Vaux ridge. On the morning of Wednesday, the 25th, the last 
survivors of the garrison of Douaumont surrendered ; and next 
day there were heavy German counter-attacks against the fort, 
which were broken up by the French fire. There the line remained 
firm, while on the Vaux ridge it was creeping inexorably round 



302 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

the ruins which in June the gallantry of Raynal could not save 
from German hands. 

The great struggle was for the German second line — the 
trenches Gotha, Siegen, and de Saales, and Damloup village ; for 
if these fell the fort of Vaux must go. On the 26th they were 
bitterly contested, and that day a French patrol got close to the 
south and east angles of the fort itself. Another reconnaissance 
descended the northern slope of the Fumin Wood, and found touch 
with Passaga's right at Vaux pond. The weather had become 
foul again, and it was clear that a continued attack on the fort 
by Lardemelle would be too high a trial. Accordingly the troops 
were slightly retired, and the guns opened in a new and furious 
bombardment of the bald hill-top. On the 28th General And- 
lauer's 9th Division relieved Lardemelle, and Arlabosse relieved 
Passaga. 

On the morning of Thursday, 2nd November, the French 
observers reported that part of the fort, where the explosions 
had been most frequent, was in process of evacuation by the enemy. 
When night fell a company of the n 8th Regiment went forward 
to reconnoitre the ground beyond the fort, while a company of 
the 298th — Raynal's old regiment — were told off to enter the 
ruins. They had some difficulty in finding a way in, so whole- 
sale had been the destructive work of the French guns ; but when 
they effected an entrance, they found that the garrison had not 
stayed upon the order of their going. Large quantities of military 
supplies, not to speak of a recent army order enjoining the strength- 
ening of the defence, gave the lie to the German tale that the 
evacuation had been decided on long before, and that the French 
had been forcing an open door. Vaux fort had been claimed by 
the enemy as far back as 9th March, and had finally fallen on 7th 
June. Its recapture forced the Germans in this section off the 
heights into the marshy plain, and, combined with the retaking 
of Douaumont, gave the French the vantage in observation. 

Next day, Friday, 3rd November, Andlauer's division pushed 
beyond Vaux fort to the edge of the plateau overhanging Vaux 
glen. On the Saturday they cleared the Germans off the northern 
slopes, crossing at one point the Vaux-Damloup road : but the 
enemy still held the Hardaumont ridge in strength. Later in 
the day Arlabosse's division pressed in from the Fumin Wood on 
the west side of the hamlet, and Andlauer's men on the eastern 
side carried their line well up the Hardaumont slopes. Vaux 
village was now in French hands. At the same time, on the right, 



1916] THE LOUVEMONT PLATEAU. 303 

the village of Damloup was won back. In ten days Mangin had 
wiped out the German gains during eight months of battle. The 
French line now stood as it had stood on February 26, 1916, the 
sixth day of the Crown Prince's offensive. At a cost of under 
6,000 casualties he had taken more than that number of German 
prisoners, many guns, and vast quantities of supplies, and had 
put out of action the equivalent of two enemy divisions. 

Before the first phase was concluded Nivelle had made his plan 
for a second and bolder effort. The great October attack had 
not been pushed to the limits of the French strength. The troops 
had been deliberately halted, in accordance with Nivelle's cautious 
plan, when they might have gone farther. The French Command 
took an artistic pride in their actions, rounding off neatly their 
set objectives, but not straggling beyond them ; moreover, they 
desired to fight economically, and operations prolonged at random 
are costly. But the situation after the fall of Douaumont and 
Vaux had certain drawbacks. The enemy had lost his principal 
observation posts, but he had others nearly as good, such as Hill 
342, on the C6te du Poivre, and Hill 378, between Louvemont 
and the farm of Chambrettes. The Louvemont plateau too, with 
its hollows and deep-cut ravines, gave him good gun positions, 
and so long as he held it the access to Douaumont was meagre 
and difficult. To complete the October victories, it was necessary 
to push the Germans back from the high ground between Louve- 
mont and Bezonvaux. 

The enemy line after the fall of Douaumont lay from the Meuse, 
just south of Vacherauville, and covering that village, along the 
south side of the crest of the C6te du Poivre ; through the Wood 
of Haudromont on the north side of the glen where ran the Bras- 
Douaumont road ; just north of Douaumont fort and village, and 
along the south slopes of the Wood of Hardaumont, above Vaux, 
to the flats of the Woevre. It was a strong line, and the Germans, 
alarmed by the events of October, had greatly strengthened it. 
The front bristled with redoubts, many new trenches had been 
dug, and advantage had been taken of the ravines to form strong 
points to take any advance in flank. The task of the attackers 
was harder than in October. Then, once the first-line crust 
had been broken, the affair was to a large extent over, and the 
troops promenaded to victory ; now there was a series of crusts, 
each one of which must be pierced by stern fighting. The Germans 
had on the ten kilometres of front five divisions. They held 



304 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

their first line with fifteen battalions — between 8,000 and 9,000 
bayonets ; they had the same number in immediate reserve, and 
the rest in quarters within easy call. Four other divisions were 
at hand in support. 

Mangin had four divisions of attack — those of Passaga and 
Guyot de Salins, which had come back out of the line for rest at 
the end of October ; the 37th of Gamier du Plessis, which had 
been one of those to bear the brunt of the spring battles of Verdun ; 
and the 126th of Muteau, which was new to the terrain. As before 
the earlier operations, all were trained upon a model of the ground 
they were destined to win. Nothing was left to chance ; every 
detail was scrutinized, and every contingency foreseen. The 
troops, already a corps d' elite, were strung to the highest pitch of 
enthusiasm by memories of past successes, and the consciousness 
that France waited with hushed breath on the issue of the new 
adventure. Their commanders knew how to speak the decisive 
word. " From the heights of Hardaumont," said Passaga, " the 
enemy still sees a corner of that famous place where he thought 
to decide the fate of our country and of civilization. To you has 
been given the honour of winning that height. . . . You will push 
your bayonets well beyond it. You will add to the glory of your 
flag by the lustre of another unforgettable day." Muteau told 
his troops, still unentered in the Verdun contest : " You will 
justify the honour that has been done you. The enemy still clings 
to the C6te du Poivre, whence he insults Verdun with his greedy 
eyes. You will hurl him off it. A I'heure dite, haut les cceurs ! 
Et en avant pour notre chere France ! " 

The beginning of December saw ill weather — high winds, rains, 
and flurries of snow. The artillery preparation, due to start on 
the 2nd, had to be postponed for a week. But on the nth the 
air was clear, though the skies were still grey and threatening. 
Winter warfare can only be conducted in the pauses of storms, 
and a commander must snatch any interval of calm. At dawn 
on that day the French airplanes were humming over the plateau, 
and the guns opened. It was a moment most critical and dramatic 
in the history of the war. Germany was launching her peace 
proposals, and next day the Imperial Chancellor told the world 
that his country had given proof of her indestructible power by 
gaining victories over adversaries superior in numbers, and that 
her unshakable line still resisted the incessant attacks of her foes. 
Some answer was needed, and France was preparing one more 
eloquent than any diplomatic note. A change, too, had come 



1916] THE ADVANCE OF 15th DECEMBER. 305 

about in the French High Command. Nivelle, the commander 
of the Second Army, had been nominated Commander-in-Chief in 
the West, and this was his last fight before he took up his new 
duties. Into it he had put every atom of his vigorous energies. 
He told the Cabinet in Paris of his plans, and forecast with 
amazing accuracy the extent of his successes. " Prepare," he said, 
" to receive good news. Before the evening of December 15th I 
will send you a telegram giving details of this and that success." 
No operation of war was ever more dramatically staged, and it is 
a proof of the complete confidence of Nivelle in his troops that he 
should have thus ventured to tempt fate and boldly prophesy. 

The grand bombardment began on the nth, but ceased during 
the afternoon owing to bad weather. During the 12th, 13th, and 
14th it continued — a far more difficult operation than that of 
October. The short winter days, the fog, and the rain made aerial 
observation uncertain, and on the air depends the virtue of the 
guns. The target, too, was less easy than in October, for the 
enemy's front was cunningly grooved and recessed in the maze 
of ravines and little glens. The French were suffering also from 
what had been the greatest obstacle to the British in the winter's 
fighting on the Somme — the necessity of bringing up ammunition 
across an old battlefield. All the ground between Souville and 
Douaumont had been fought over, and though miles of new roads 
and light railways had been constructed, the transport of heavy 
shells was an arduous labour. Nevertheless, from the nth onward, 
the strong points on the German front were scientifically blotted 
out — the Hardaumont Wood, and the ruined villages of Vacherau- 
ville, Louvemont, and Bezonvaux, now turned into underground 
fortresses. The French barrage cut off all communication, and 
for three days the German defence, cowering in dug-outs under a 
ceaseless tornado, went hungry. Deserters dribbled across the 
line — broken men who fled from the wrath to come. 

Friday, the 15th, dawned grey and chilty, with snow showers 
and a lowering sky, but without the baffling fog. The French 
divisions of attack crossed their parapets at ten in the morning. 
On the left Muteau's division had for its main objective the hill 
called 342 on the C6te du Poivre ; next to it Gu}^ot de Salins struck 
at Louvemont ; on his right Gamier du Plessis had the area be- 
tween Chambrettes farm and Bezonvaux ; while Passaga, on his 
right flank, aimed at the fortressed labyrinth which was once the 
Wood of Hardaumont. The task of the divisions varied much in 
difficulty. The whole movement was a swing forward of the right 



306 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

wing pivoting on the C6te du Poivre ; so that while Muteau on 
the left had less than a mile, though a difficult mile, to cover, the 
troops on the right had a two-mile advance before them. 

Muteau had an instant success. His men, infantry of the line, 
were for the most part reservists with thirty years behind them. 
On the extreme left Woillemont's brigade attacked Vacherauville 
and the crest of the Cdte du Poivre. At seven minutes past ten 
they had won the crest, and five minutes after the 112th Regiment 
was in the village. Twenty minutes later the crowning position 
of Hill 342 was carried, and the intricate German defences, elabo- 
rated during eight weeks, had passed into other hands, together 
with 1,200 prisoners. That fierce half-hour was one of the most 
brilliant strokes of the campaign. Nothing stopped the fury of 
the assault, not uncut wire or machine guns in pockets or un- 
foreseen strongholds ; that thunderous charge swept aside all 
hindrances like stubble. Vacherauville had been made a strong 
place, but its strength was futile against the swift encircling 
tactics of the French and their tempestuous surge inwards. On 
Muteau's right the brigade under Steinmetz which took Hill 342 
evoked the admiration of Guyot de Salins's proud Colonials, who 
were stern judges of an assault. " Tell your commander, with 
our compliments," so ran the message, " that for linesmen that 
was pretty well done." 

East of Muteau the Moroccan brigade of the Colonials attacked 
from the Wood of Haudromont against Louvemont village, which 
lay in the slight dip of the plateau where ran the highway from 
Vacherauville to Ornes. There Nicolay's battalion, the victors of 
Douaumont, had a desperate struggle in the first-line trenches, 
called Prague and Pomerania ; and there fell Nicolay himself, 
shot through the forehead by a sniper who picked out the tall 
figure of the commandant. His death maddened his followers, 
and Louvemont, encircled on three sides, speedily fell. The right 
of the division was no less successful. In the ravine of Helly the 
Zouaves repeated their October exploit in the Ravin de la Dame. 
In three-quarters of an hour they were on the crest of Hill 378 — 
after Douaumont the highest point of the neighbourhood ; and 
at twenty minutes past one the farm of Les Chambrettes was in 
their hands. 

On their right the division of Gamier du Plessis had a long 
and stubborn task. Its first difficulty was with the work called 
the Camp of Attila, at the head of the Helly ravine, which was 
stubbornly defended by a Grenadier battalion from Posen, whose 



THE FRENCH ADVANCE 
AT VERDUN. 













1:3V ~ r ' c 












i 9 if>] LES CHAMBRETTES. 307 

officers themselves served the machine guns, and whose colonel 
fought most gallantly to the end. One part of the division was 
able to push on almost to the edge of the Wood of Caurieres, where 
they were in touch with the Zouaves in Les Chambrettes. But 
the rest, after brilliantly carrying the enemy's first line, were held 
up in the second by the trenches called Weimar and Chemnitz, 
which lined the crest on the west side of the Hassoule ravine, 
which descends to Bezonvaux glen. This position also checked 
the advance of Passaga, who in the morning had brilliantly carried 
the trenches and ravines in the Wood of Hardaumont. When 
the December dark fell the French line was as follows :— From 
Vacherauville to Louvemont the whole Cdte du Poivre was in their 
hands, except a pocket on the crest which was reduced during the 
night. East of Louvemont they held the higher ground as far 
as Les Chambrettes farm, from which, owing to the enemy bom- 
bardment, they had slightly withdrawn. Thence the front curved 
sharply back, running through the woods of La Vauche and Har- 
daumont, and reaching the edge of the uplands just south of the 
little fort of Bezonvaux. 

Next day, 16th December, it was the task of du Plessis's divi- 
sion to make good the Weimar and Chemnitz trenches. Till this 
happened, Passaga on the right was held, and the Zouaves of de 
Salins at Les Chambrettes were awkwardly enfiladed. Indeed the 
latter formed a sharp salient, and all night long had to struggle 
against attacks from the Wood of Caurieres. Little could be done 
in the darkness, for the moon was in its last quarter, and the blasts 
of snow made the obscurity profound. At the first light the ad- 
vance began. Two battalions of Passaga's right brigade forced 
their way into Bezonvaux village, while a battalion on his left 
took in flank the Deux-Ponts trench, which was a continuation 
of the more famous Weimar. Large numbers of prisoners were 
taken ; but the French had no time to look after them, and their 
multitude of captives was almost their undoing. For some six 
hundred, wandering back without an escort, and seeing that the 
attacking force at this point was a mere handful, recovered their 
arms, and, skulking in trenches and in shell-holes, opened fire 
from the back. The chasseurs were between two foes, and disaster 
might have followed but for the fact that the Zouaves on the left 
were busy executing a similar flanking movement, and had carried 
the ridge in the rear of the Weimar trench. They saw what was 
happening farther east, and dispatched a company to the aid of 
the hard-pressed chasseurs. The Weimar defence was now hope- 



308 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

lessly turned, and du Plessis's men swept over the debateable ground, 
through the Wood of Caurieres, and carried the line to the scarp 
of the plateau. The French front now lay where it had been on 
24th February, the fourth day of the great battle. 

The German counter-attacks came fast, and their main object 
was the little salient at Les Chambrettes. All the afternoon of 
the 16th they kept up a continuous bombardment on de Salins's 
right, which for two days went through the extreme of human 
misery. To win ground is easy compared with the task of holding 
it — holding it through the long winter nights in mud and snow and 
bitter cold, with no dug-outs, no hot food, no shelter, no rest from 
an overpowering fatigue. For six days a Zouave battalion, under 
Lieutenant-Colonel Richard, held the Les Chambrettes sector. On 
the 17th the Germans counter-attacked, and managed to recover 
the ruins of the farm, the last point from which observation was 
possible towards Douaumont and the Chauffour Wood. The 
Zouaves refused to be relieved till they had won it back. On 
Monday, the 18th, at three o'clock in the afternoon, win it back 
they did, and such an attack has rarely been witnessed by mortal 
eyes. Every man was a muddy ghost, weary to death, and 
chilled to the bone. Long ago, in Marlborough's wars, the cry 
of " En avant les gants glacis ! " had attended the charge of 
the Maison du Roi. Now it was " En avant les pieds geles ! " 
that the leader shouted. The frozen feet did not fail him. Men 
crawled on their knees, men used rifles as crutches ; but, limping 
and stumbling, they swarmed over Les Chambrettes and made it 
theirs. 

The action fought between 15th and 18th December was, con- 
sidering its short duration, perhaps the most remarkable Allied 
success since the campaign opened in the West. The prisoners 
taken numbered 11,387, including 284 officers ; 115 guns were 
captured or destroyed ; 44 trench mortars, 107 machine guns, and 
much other material were taken ; four villages, five forts, many 
redoubts, and innumerable trenches were occupied ; and the better 
part of six enemy divisions was destroyed. The French losses for 
the first day were in the neighbourhood of 1,500 ! In the later 
days the total mounted higher, thereby supporting Nivelle's point : 
for he had argued that it was only when the line grew stationary 
that losses came, and that an attack kept up continuously must 
be economical — a view which, as we shall see, was to play an im- 
portant part in the next stage of French strategy. Moreover, it 
was no sudden gift from fortune, but a result foreseen and planned 



1916] FRANCE'S ANSWER TO GERMANY. 309 

— a triumph of generalship and calculation as well as of fighting 
prowess. The event came at an auspicious moment. It was for 
Nivelle a spectacular farewell to his old army, and an eloquent 
message to his countrymen on his assumption of the highest com- 
mand. Above all, it was France's reply to Germany's manoeu- 
vring for a false peace. " To her hypocritical overtures," Mangin 
told his men, " you have answered with the cannon mouth and 
the bayonet point. You have been the true ambassadors of the 
Republic. You have done well by your country." 



CHAPTER LXVIII. 

THE POSITION AT SEA AND IN THE AIR. 

August ig-November 28, 19 16. 

The German High Sea Fleet — The Dover Patrol — Germany's Submarine Successes 
— The " Submarine Cruiser " — British Methods of Defence — Jellicoe becomes 
First Sea Lord — The Year's Work in the Air — Controversy as to Administra- 
tion of British Air Force — The Zeppelin Raids on Britain — The first Raiding 
Airplane. 

The second half of the year 1916 brought no great sea battle to 
break the monotony of the vigil of the British Navy. The events 
which led to the Battle of Jutland were not repeated. Movements 
there were both in the North Sea and the Baltic, but none was 
followed by an engagement of capital ships. The autumn was 
indeed a period of high significance in naval warfare, but the 
struggle was waged below the surface. The face of the northern 
waters saw no encounter which deserved the name of a serious 
battle. 

For a moment in August there was hope of better things. On 
Saturday, the 19th, the German High Sea Fleet came out, 
preceded by a large number of scouting craft and accompanied 
by Zeppelins. They found the British forces in strength, and 
deemed it wiser to alter course and return to port. In searching 
for the enemy we lost two light cruisers by submarine attack — 
the Nottingham * (Captain C. B. Miller) and the Falmouth f 
(Captain John D. Edwards) — but happily the loss of life was 
small. One German submarine was destroyed, and another 
rammed and damaged. That same day the British submarine 
E23 attacked a German battleship of the Nassau class, and hit 
her with two torpedoes. The enemy vessel was last seen, in a 

• The Nottingham had a displacement of 5,400 tons and 25 knots. She had 
been in the Battles of the Dogger Bank and Jutland. 

f The Falmouth, which was also at the Battle of Jutland, had 5,250 tons and 
35 knots. 

BIO 



1916] RAIDS FROM ZEEBRUGGE. 3" 

precarious condition, being escorted back to harbour by de- 
stroyers. 

There was no further incident till the close of October, when 
destroyers of the German flotilla, which had its base at Zeebrugge, 
placed a bold exploit to their credit. The safety of the mighty 
Channel ferry, which had carried millions of our troops safely 
backward and forward between France and England, had become 
almost an article of faith with the British people. In spite of 
drifting mines and submarine activity our lines of communication 
had remained untouched, and Sir Reginald Bacon, the admiral 
commanding the Dover patrols, was able to report in his dispatch 
of 27th July 19 16 that not a single life had been lost in the vast 
transport operations of two years. The night of Thursday, 26th 
October, was moonless and stormy', and, under cover of the 
weather, ten German destroyers slipped out of Zeebrugge and made 
their way down Channel. Air reconnaissance had given them the 
exact location of our minefields and our main cross-Channel route. 
Creeping along inshore in the dark, they managed to elude the 
vigilance of the British patrols. They fell in with an empty 
transport, The Queen, which they promptly torpedoed. The 
vessel kept afloat for six hours, and all her crew were saved. Six 
of our drifters were also sunk, and then British destroyers came 
on the scene. One of them, the Flirt* was surprised at close 
quarters by the enemy and sunk, while another, the Nubian,^ 
was torpedoed while attacking the invaders, and went aground, 
her tow having parted in the heavy weather. The enemy made 
off without apparently suffering any losses from our gun or torpedo 
fire ; but there was evidence that two of his destroyers afterwards 
struck mines and perished. Such were the bare facts of an 
incident which, for the moment, agitated public opinion and in- 
creased the uneasiness as to our naval position which the growth 
of submarine activity had already engendered. In itself it was a 
small affair — a bold enterprise which had every chance in its 
favour, for the confusion and darkness made its success almost 
certain. The wonder was not that it happened, but that it had 
not happened before. Major Moraht and others had long been 
pointing out the importance of the Channel ferry for Britain, 
and it would have been little short of miraculous if nothing had 
ever occurred to threaten that line of communication. The Ger- 

* The Flirt belonged to " C " class, and had 380 tons and 30 knots. 

t The Nubian was of the " F " group, and had 985 tons and 33 knots. Both 
nad been engaged in the operations off the Belgian coast under Rear-Admiral Hood 
in the autumn of 1914. 



312 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

man adventure was to be expected so long as the nest of pirates 
at Zeebrugge was not smoked out or hermetically sealed up, and 
such tme preventive measures were both difficult and dangerous 
so long as the main German Fleet was not out of action. 

Three more incidents of what may be called open fighting 
fell to be recorded before the close of the year. On the night of 
ist November the Oldambt, a. Dutch steamer, was captured by 
German destroyers near the North Hinder Lightship, a prize crew 
was put on board, and the vessel was making for Zeebrugge. 
Early next morning she was overtaken by British destroyers, 
and the prize crew made prisoners. Five German destroyers 
which came up as escort were engaged and put to flight. On 
7th November a British submarine, under Commander Noel 
Laurence, fell in with a German squadron off the coast of Jutland, 
and hit two battleships of the Kaiser class. Three days later 
German torpedo craft of the latest and largest type, under cover 
of fog, attempted a raid on the entrance to the Gulf of Finland. 
They were engaged by Russian destroyers, and driven off in con- 
fusion, losing from six to nine vessels. 

The main German successes during these months were won 
against liners and hospital ships. With regard to the latter Ger- 
many followed her familiar method. She attacked vessels which 
bore conspicuously the mark of their non-belligerent mission, 
attacked them often in broad daylight, and then, to justify herself, 
invented the legend that they were laden with ammunition and 
war material.* On 21st November there was a flagrant instance 
in the torpedoing of the Britannic in the Zea Channel off the south- 
east point of Attica. The Britannic, which in gross tonnage was the 
largest British ship afloat, was carrying over 1,000 wounded sol- 
diers from Salonika, most of whom were saved, the total death-roll 
being only about fifty. The outrage took place in the clear morn- 
ing light, when the character of the great vessel was apparent 
to the most purblind submarine commander. On 6th November 
the P. and O. liner Arabia, a sister ship to the India and the Persia, 
which had been previously destroyed, was torpedoed without 
warning in the Mediterranean, all the passengers and the majority 
of the crew being saved. 

Since the war began the most striking fact in naval warfare 
had been the development of the range of action of the submarine. 
At first it was believed in Britain that an enemy submarine could 

• The military purpose was, of course, to compel Britain to draw upon her 
scanty supply of destroyers to act as escorts to such vessels. 



1916] THE OCEAN-CRUISER SUBMARINE. 313 

do little more than reach the British coast, and the torpedoing of 
the Pathfinder on 5th September and of the three Cressys off the 
Hook of Holland on September 22, 1914, came as an unpleasant 
surprise to popular opinion. In December of that year Tirpitz 
himself announced that the larger under-water boats could remain 
out for as much as fourteen days at a time. Two months later 
the U boats were in the Irish Channel, and in May 1915 they 
were in the Mediterranean. There, to be sure, they were assisted 
by depots en route, and the full extent of a submarine's range 
was not understood till, in July 1916, the Deutschland reached 
the American coast. This exploit so heartened Germany that 
she announced a long-range blockade of Britain, and promised in 
October to begin operations. The Allied Governments protested 
to neutral states against the extension to submarines of the ordi- 
nary rule of international law which permits a warship to enjoy 
for twenty-four hours the hospitality of foreign territorial waters. 
They urged that any belligerent submarine entering a neutral port 
should be detained there, on the ground that such vessels, being 
submersible, could not be properly identified at sea, and must 
escape the normal control and observation of other types of 
warships. 

On Saturday, 7th October, the German U53 (Captain Rose)* 
arrived at Newport, Rhode Island. She did not take in supplies, 
but she received certain information, and presently departed. 
During the next two days she sank by torpedo or gun-fire eight 
vessels in the vicinity of the Nantucket Lightship, including one 
Dutch and one Norwegian steamer. There was no life lost, owing 
to the prompt appearance of American destroyers. The per- 
formance created something like a panic in American shipping 
circles, and for a day or two outgoing ships were detained. But 
it was soon obvious that talk of a blockade of the American coast 
would awaken a very ugly temper in the United States, and could 
not be defended by the wildest stretch of the rules of international 
law. Submarines which took at least a month coming and going 
from German waters could not institute any effective blockade 
without illegal assistance on the American side, and the Govern- 
ment of Washington was determined that the temptation should 
not arise. Accordingly the performance of U53 remained unique. 
The Deutschland arrived on its second voyage on 1st November, 

* This was perhaps the most advertised of all German submarines, and thougn 
eagerly pursued was never destroyed by the Allies. It was, however, crippled for 
good by an American subchaser about two months before the end of the war. 



314 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

and the occasional transit of other submarines continued ; but the 
Nantucket doings were not repeated, and the talk of long-range 
blockade was suddenly dropped.* 

But in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and in 
all the waters adjacent to the British and German coasts, the 
autumn saw a determined revival of Germany's submarine cam- 
paign. The comparative immunity which had endured throughout 
the summer was violently broken, and the tale of Allied and neutral 
losses quickly mounted to a dangerous figure. Germany was 
operating now with the large boats laid down in the spring of 
1915 — boats with a radius of 12,000 miles, carrying deck guns 
with a range of 6,000 yards, with strong upper works capable of 
resisting hits by six-pounders, and with a surface speed of twenty- 
five knots, and a submerged speed of twelve. In the last six months 
of 1916 she completed not less than eighty new craft. Her 
promise to President Wilson of May 1916 was utterly disregarded. 
Vessels were torpedoed without warning, and without provision 
being made for the safety of the passengers. The Marina, for 
example, which was destroyed off the Irish coast at the end of 
October with considerable loss of life, had many Americans on 
board ; but Berlin gambled on the preoccupation of the American 
people with the Presidential election. Swedish, Danish, and 
Dutch vessels suffered heavily, and the Norwegian merchant 
navy was a special target owing to Norway's refusal to permit 
German submarines inside her territorial waters. The U-boats be- 
came insolent in their daring, and in the beginning of December 
one of them shelled the town of Funchal, Madeira, in broad day- 
light, and sank several ships in her harbour. The barbarity of 
the enemy grew with his successes. The Westminster was tor- 
pedoed without warning on 14th December, and sunk in five min- 
utes. As the crew tried to escape, the submarine shelled them at 
3,000 yards range, sinking one of the boats, and killing the master 
and chief engineer. By the end of the year Germany claimed 
that the Allied tonnage was disappearing from the sea at the rate 
of 10,000 tons a day ; and though the figure was considerably 
overstated, yet beyond doubt a maritime situation had arisen, 
the gravest which had yet faced the Allies since the beginning of 
the war. 

The reason of Germany's success was not far to seek. So long 

* The ocean-cruiser type of submarine had a crew of 70 and a displacement 
approaching 3,000 tons. But they were slow to submerge and difficult to handle, 
and on the whole played a very small part in the war. 



i 9 i6] THE ALLIED PLAN OF DEFENCE. 3*5 

as the U-boats confined themselves to the Narrow Seas we could 
by nets and other devices take heavy toll of them, and nullify their 
efforts. But all our normal defensive measures were idle when 
they extended their range and operated in the open waters of the 
Atlantic. A new problem had arisen, to be met by new methods. 
Germany was attempting to meet the British blockade by a counter- 
blockade— to cripple the sea-borne trade which brought food to 
the people of Britain and munitions of war to all the Allies. Our 
available merchant tonnage was shrinking daily, and, with labour 
already taxed to its utmost, it looked as if it might be difficult 
to replace the wastage. An extravagant rise in prices, a genuine 
scarcity of food, even the crippling of some vital section of the 
Allied munitionment, were possibilities that now loomed not too 
remotely on the horizon. 

To cope with the German campaign there seemed at the mo- 
ment to be three possible plans — two practicable, but inadequate ; 
one summary and final, but hard to achieve. Of a fourth — to 
make the sea no place for submarines — the possibility was not yet 
envisaged. The first was to arm all merchantmen. This would not 
prevent torpedoing, but it would make destruction by bombs or 
deck-guns more difficult, and since no submarine could carry a large 
stock of torpedoes, the power of mischief of the under-water boat 
would be thereby limited. Such arming of merchantmen had the 
drawback that it would absorb a large number of guns for which 
there was other and urgent use, or in the alternative would compel 
munition factories to switch off from their normal work to ensure 
their production. It would also induce the Germans to revive 
wholesale their practice of sinking without warning. The second 
plan was to revive an old fashion, and make all merchantmen 
sail in convoy. This method was unpopular among shipowners 
because of its inconvenience and delay, and it had the further 
objection that it would give the enemy submarines an easy target, 
assuming that they eluded the vigilance of the escorting warships. 
Moreover, the type of fast lighter craft required for escort could 
only be provided by a large amount of new construction, or by 
withdrawing that type from its duties with the main battle squadrons. 
Both of the plans were confessed to be palliatives rather than cures, 
and both made further demands upon the already severely taxed 
reserve of British labour. 

The one final policy against submarines was to carry our mine- 
fields up to the edge of the German harbours, and to pen the 
enemy within his own bases. But clearly this aggressive cam- 



316 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

paign was most hazardous so long as the main German Fleet re- 
mained in being. It would be impossible, while the enemy's High 
Sea Fleet was still intact, to utilize a large part of our fleet in mining 
operations in his home waters without running the risk of a division 
of strength and a sudden disaster. The true remedy for the sub- 
marine menace was a naval victory which would destroy the better 
part of the capital ships. This did not mean that Sir John Jellicoe 
was forthwith to run his head against the defences of Wilhelms- 
haven, and risk everything in an attempt to bring the enemy 
to action ; but it did mean that the last word, as always, lay with 
the main fleets, and that to rest on our laurels because the German 
High Sea Fleet was more or less immobilized was to repose upon a 
false security. The truth was that our command of the sea was 
far from absolute. We had not neutralized the enemy's fleet so 
long as it remained above water, and the development of sub- 
marine warfare had impaired the safety of our ocean-borne trade. 
We possessed a conditional superiority, but we could not make it 
actual and reap the fruits of it till we had won a decisive sea battle. 
This truth was obscured during the autumn of 19 16 by some 
unfortunate publications of Mr. Winston Churchill, who, having 
returned from the front, and being without official responsibility, 
was free to indulge in comments on the situation. " The primary 
and dominant fact," he wrote, " is that from its base in Scottish 
waters the British Fleet delivers a continuous attack upon the 
vital necessities of the enemy, whereas the enemy, from his home 
bases, produces no corresponding effect upon us." He urged the 
country to rest satisfied with this " silent attack," and criticized 
the Battle of Jutland as an " audacious but unnecessary effort " 
to bring the enemy to action. No necessity of war, he argued, 
obliged us to accept the risk of fighting at a distance from our 
bases and in enemy waters. Apart from the fact that Mr. Churchill's 
view was in conflict with principles that had always governed our 
sea policy, his conclusion was wholly unwarranted by the facts. The 
German Fleet, by the mere fact that it existed intact, did " exercise 
a continuous attack upon our vital necessities." It crippled our 
efforts to overcome the very real submarine menace. A successful 
general action, so far from being a luxury and a trimming, was the 
chief demand of the moment, for only by the shattering of Scheer 
could the U-boats be corralled, blinded, and effectively checkmated. 
The anxiety of the nation was presently reflected in certain 
important changes made in the high naval commands. For some 
time it had been urged that the post of First Sea Lord was the most 



1916] JELLICOE BECOMES FIRST SEA LORD. 317 

vital in the Navy, and that the man who held it should be one 
who had large experience of actual service under modern condi- 
tions. For twenty-eight months Sir John Jellicoe had been con- 
tinuously at sea. He had been aforetime a successful Admiralty 
official, and understood headquarters procedure ; but, above all, 
he had learned at first hand the problems of the hour. It is desir- 
able during any campaign that the man with first-hand knowledge 
of realities should be given the directing power at home. The 
main duty was to cope with the enemy submarine, and to solve 
that conundrum needed the fullest experience of the enemy's 
methods. The policy had been followed when Sir William Robert- 
son was brought back from France as Chief of the Imperial General 
Staff, and the same course was now taken with the Commander-in- 
Chief at sea. On 4th December Sir John Jellicoe was gazetted 
First Sea Lord in place of Sir Henry Jackson, while Sir David 
Beatty assumed command of the Grand Fleet. 

The new appointments were welcomed by the nation, and 
did something to appease the critics. The crying needs of the 
moment were that our naval policy should be considered not 
as a thing by itself, but as a part of the whole strategic plan of 
the Allies, and that the administration at headquarters should be 
in the closest touch with the requirements of the fighting line. 
Sir John Jellicoe was not only a great sea-captain, but a trained 
administrator and a man of statesmanlike width and foresight, 
and he brought to his new office an unequalled experience of active 
service. Moreover, the mere change of duties was in itself desir- 
able, for an unrelieved vigil of twenty-eight months must tell 
upon the strongest constitution and the stoutest nerve. In all 
human enterprises some readjustment of personnel is periodically 
necessary, if only to ensure that variation of tasks which is the 
best rest and refreshment to men of action. The new Commander- 
in-Chief was the man to whom fate had granted the widest experi- 
ence of actual fighting. In two and a half years Sir John Jellicoe 
had been no more than two and a half hours within range of the 
enemy. Sir David Beatty had had better fortune, for he had 
been at the Battle of the Bight of Heligoland, at the battle of 
January 24, 1915, and had been in action through the whole of 
the Battle of Jutland. At the age of forty-six he succeeded to 
the highest fighting command in the British Navy, and those who 
believed that there was no final settlement of our sea difficulties 
except in a decisive victory over the main enemy fleet rejoiced that 
in Sir David Beatty the spirit of the offensive was incarnate. 



318 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June-Nov. 

The summer and autumn of 1916 saw no such spectacular 
revival of German aeronautics as marked the close of 1915. The 
Fokker — for some months a defence so formidable that the Allied 
air offensive came almost to a standstill — had found its level, 
and though Germany struggled hard to create new types, she did 
not again steal a march upon the Allied construction. Moreover, 
the opening of the Somme offensive saw an immense advance in 
the tactical use of airplanes by the Allies, an advance marked by 
such boldness and ingenuity that the question of aerial supremacy 
seemed to be clearly decided. The French and British airmen 
had beyond doubt won the initiative. This was recognized by the 
enemy, and captured letters were full of complaints of the in- 
adequacy of the German reply. The Battle of the Somme in its 
later stages showed, indeed, something of the old see-saw, and 
there came moments when the German airmen recovered their 
nerve and made a stout defence. The popular phrase, the "mastery 
of the air," was in those days apt to be misused. There were 
weeks when the Allies' total of loss seemed to be higher than that 
of their adversaries, and pessimists complained that our mastery 
had gone. Mastery in the absolute sense never existed. The Allied 
squadrons still ventured much when they crossed the enemy lines, 
and they paid a price, sometimes a heavy price, for their successes. 
But they maintained continuously the offensive. Daily they did 
their work of destruction and reconnaissance far inside the enemy 
territory, while the few German machines that crossed our lines 
came at night, and at a great elevation. Hourly throughout the 
battles they gave to the work of the infantry a tactical support 
to which the enemy could show no parallel. If the Allied losses 
had been consistently higher than the Germans' the superiority 
would still have been ours, for we achieved our purpose. We 
hampered the enemy's reserves, destroyed his depots, reconnoitred 
every acre of his hinterland, and shattered his peace of mind. 
For such results no price could have been too high, for our air work 
was the foundation of every infantry advance. As a matter of 
sober fact, the price was not high ; it was less than Germany paid 
for her inadequate defence. 

During the later Verdun battles and the great offensive on the 
Somme, the four main aerial activities were maintained. Our 
airplanes did long-distance reconnoitring work, they " spotted " 
for the guns, they bombed important enemy centres, and they 
fought and destroyed enemy machines. The daily communiques 
recorded the destruction of enemy dumps and depots and railway 



rgi6] CONTACT PATROLS. 319 

junctions, and a long series of brilliant conflicts in the air, where 
often a German squadron was broken up and put to flight by a 
single Allied plane. To a watcher of these battles the signs of 
our superiority were, manifest. Constantly at night a great glare 
behind the lines marked where some German ammunition store had 
gone up in flames. The orderly file of Allied kite balloons glittered 
daily in the sun ; but the German " sausages " were few, and 
often a wisp of fire in the heavens showed that another had fallen 
victim to an Allied airman. A German plane was as rare a sight 
a mile within our lines as a swallow in November, but the eternal 
crack of anti-aircraft guns from the German side told of the per- 
sistency of the Allied inroads. 

The most interesting development brought about by the Somme 
action was that of " contact patrols." The machines used were 
of the slowest type, and it was their business to accompany an 
infantry advance and report progress. In the intricate trench 
fighting of the modern battle nothing was harder than to locate 
the position at any one moment of the advancing battalions. 
Flares might not be observed in the smoke and dust ; dis- 
patch runners might fail to get through the barrage ; the supply 
of pigeons might give out or the birds be killed en route — and the 
general behind might be unable in consequence to give orders to 
the guns. With the system of " creeping barrages " it was vital 
that the command should be fully informed from time to time 
of the exact situation of the infantry attack. The airman, flying 
low over the trenches, could detect the whereabouts of his own 
troops and report accordingly. Again and again during the 
Somme, when the mist of battle and ill weather had swallowed up 
the advance, airplanes brought half-hourly accurate and most 
vital intelligence. A check could in this way be made known, 
and the guns turned on to break up an obstacle ; while an advance 
swifter than the time-table could be saved from the risk of its own 
barrage. Curiously enough, except for rifle and machine-gun 
fire from the German trenches, these flights were not so desperately 
risky. They were made usually at a height of something under 
500 feet, and the German anti-aircraft guns, made to fire straight 
into the air, and usually mounted on the crests of the ridges, could 
not be trained on the marauders. These airplanes did not content 
themselves with reconnaissance. They attacked the enemy in 
the trenches with bombs and machine-gnn fire, and on many 
occasions completely demoralized him. There was one instance 
of a whole battalion surrendering to an airplane. Bouchavesnes 



320 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [June-Nov. 

was taken largely by French fire from the air, and the last trench 
at Gueudecourt fell to a British airman. 

The air, as we have seen, was the realm for individual prowess, 
and slowly from the multitude of combatants figures began to 
emerge of an epic greatness ; men who steadily added to their 
tale of destruction, till in the world's eyes their work took the 
appearance of a grim rivalry. The Germans and the French 
made no secret of their heroes, but rather encouraged the adver- 
tisement of their names ; but the Royal Flying Corps, true to its 
traditions, contented itself with a bare recital of the deed, till an 
occasional V.C. lifted the veil of anonymity. Germany possessed 
the great twin-brothers Boelcke and Immelmann, who rose to 
fame during the Verdun struggle. Immelmann was the chief 
exponent of the Fokker, and had eighteen victims to his credit 
when, on 18th June, he was shot down by Second Lieutenant 
McCubbin, who was still in his novitiate in the Royal Flying 
Corps. On 28th October Boelcke, who the day before had de- 
stroyed his fortieth Allied plane, perished in a collision. It is 
pleasant to record that these heroes of the air had the respect 
of their foes as well as the admiration of their friends, and the 
Allied airmen sent memorial wreaths to their funerals. The chief 
French champions were Guynemer and Nungesser, who survived 
the winter, in spite of adventures where every risk on earth was 
taken. In September, for example, Guynemer's machine was 
struck by a shell at an altitude of 10,000 feet. He made vain 
efforts to hold it up, but it dropped 5,000 feet, and was then caught 
by an air current and driven over the French lines. It crashed to 
earth and became an utter wreck ; but the airman, though stunned, 
was unhurt. All records, however, were excelled by the British 
airman, Captain Albert Ball, formerly of the Sherwood Foresters. 
When not yet twenty he had taken part in over a hundred aerial 
combats, and had accounted for over thirty German machines. 
His life was fated to be as short as it was heroic, for he perished in 
the spring offensive of 1917, after having destroyed for certain 
forty-one enemy planes, with ten more practically certain, and 
many others where the likelihood was strong. No greater marvel 
of skill and intrepidity has been exhibited by any service in any 
army in any campaign in the history of the world.* 

During the better part of the Somme battle the Allied machines 
were at least equal to the German in pace and handiness. The 

* Captain Ball received the Victoria Cross posthumously. He had already won 
the D.S.O. and the Military Cross. 



i 9 i6] THE ALLIED RAIDS. 321 

little Nieuport scouts, in especial, dealt death to the kite balloons, 
and the Martinsyde and de Havilland fighting planes were more 
than a match for the Fokker. In October, however, the enemy 
produced two new types — the Spad and the Halberstadt — both 
based on French models and possessing engines of 240 h.p. With 
them his airmen could work at a height of 20,000 feet and swoop 
down upon British machines moving at a lower altitude. Hence 
there came a time, at the close of the Somme operations, when 
the see-saw once again slightly inclined in the Germans' favour. 
The moment passed, and long before the 1917 offensive began 
the arrival of new and improved British types had redressed the 
balance. 

The aerial warfare of 1916, as summarized by the French 
Staff, showed that 900 enemy airplanes had been destroyed by 
the Allies, the French accounting for 450, and the British for 250. 
Eighty-one kite balloons had been burned, fifty-four by the French, 
and twenty-seven by the British. Seven hundred and fifty bom- 
bardments had taken place, of which the French were responsible 
for 250 and the British for 180. Apart from tactical bombard- 
ments immediately behind the fighting line, the record of the year 
was least conspicuous in the matter of bomb-dropping. Experi- 
ence had shown that the German public were peculiarly sensible 
to this mode of attack ; but the preoccupation of the Allies with 
great battles limited the number of machines which could be spared 
for that purpose. Nevertheless some of the raids undertaken 
were singularly bold and effective, as a few examples will show. 
On 12th October a Franco-British squadron of forty machines 
attacked the Mauser rifle factory at Oberndorf on the Neckar, 
dropped nearly a thousand pounds' weight of projectiles, and 
fought their way home through a hornets' nest of enemy craft. 
On 22nd September two French airmen, Captain de Beauchamp 
and Lieutenant Daucourt, in a Sopwith biplane, visited and bombed 
the Krupp works at Essen — a tour de force rather than a work of 
military importance, for Essen did not suffer much from the 
limited number of bombs which could be carried on a 500-mile 
journey. On 17th November Captain de Beauchamp in the same 
machine flew over Friedrichshafen to Munich, which he bombed, 
and then crossed the Alps and descended in Italy. But the most 
sensational achievement was that of Second Lieutenant Marchal 
on a special type of Nieuport monoplane, who on the night of 
20th June flew over Berlin, dropping leaflets. He was making 
for Russia ; but unfortunately he had trouble with his machine. 



322 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [June-Nov. 

and came down at Cholm, in Poland, where he was taken prisoner. 
He was then only sixty-three miles from the Russian trenches, 
and had travelled 811 miles. 

The controversy raised by unofficial writers as to the administra- 
tion of the British air service, which had sprung up originally 
when the first Zeppelin raids gave the civilian people of Britain 
food for thought, raged intermittently through 1916. It was a 
topic where the critic was at an advantage, for the ordinary man 
had no expert knowledge to test his criticism, and it was frequently 
impossible for the authorities to make reply, since that would have 
involved the publication of details valuable to the enemy. Any 
considerable increase in flying casualties brought the question to 
the fore, and the natural anxiety of the British citizen to make 
certain of the efficiency of a service on which he depended for his 
safety was buttressed by the grievances of private aircraft makers 
against the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough. The private 
maker was indeed in a difficult case. His market must be with 
the Government ; to the Government he looked for recompense 
for the toil and money he had spent in new production ; and 
jealousy was inevitable of a State business which seemed to take 
the bread out of the mouth of a deserving industry. 

In August a committee was appointed to consider the state 
of affairs at Farnborough, when various faults were discovered, 
and a scheme of reorganization proposed. Another committee 
sat throughout the summer, investigating the charges brought 
by press and parliamentary critics against the administration 
and command of the Royal Flying Corps. The inquiry was a 
personal triumph for the Director-General of Military Aeronautics, 
Sir David Henderson, who had no difficulty in disposing of the 
foolish charges, based on hearsay evidence or no evidence at all, 
which had been showered on his organization. At the same time, 
many unsatisfactory points were revealed, and the committee 
recommended that the Royal Aircraft Factory should be regarded 
rather as an experimental centre than as a manufacturing estab- 
lishment, and urged that the efficiency of the service required 
that the fighting command should be separated from the respon- 
sibility for supplying equipment. The latter task should belong 
to a special department, which should meet the demands both of 
the Army and the Navy. 

This last recommendation exposed one of the main difficulties 
of the question. The Navy and the Army were in perpetual 
competition, and the Air Board formed under the presidency of 



igi6] THE COMING OF THE ZEPPELINS. 323 

Lord Curzon in May 1916 could not control the quarrel. When 
Lord Curzon in December went to the War Cabinet he was 
succeeded at the Air Board by Lord Sydenham, who presently 
resigned. Mr. Lloyd George some weeks later attempted to 
solve the problem by reconstituting the Air Board with Lord 
Cowdray in charge, and appointing Commander Paine to be 
the air member of the Board of Admiralty, as Sir David Hen- 
derson was air member of the Army Council. The production 
of machines for both the naval and military services was handed 
over to the Ministry of Munitions. The change was an improve- 
ment, but few people believed that it was a final solution of the 
problem. The administration of a new and swiftly developing 
service is more intricate at home than in the field. The demands 
of two separate organizations had to be faced — the Navy and 
the Army — organizations that differed largely in their requirements. 
The private makers had to be kept in touch with the needs of the 
fighting services ; they had to be controlled and advised, and at 
the same time their initiative in research and experiment must not 
be crippled. Finally, the executive command of the service must 
not be confused with the duty of supplying materiel, for the two 
tasks were poles apart. The Air Service had from small beginnings 
grown rapidly to great dimensions, and the need for differentiation 
of functions had risen. That is never an easy matter to settle, 
and it was not made easier by the pressure of instant war needs. 

Beginning in August 1915, the British people saw a series of 
Zeppelin visitations which grew bolder as the winter advanced. 
On the last day of March 1916 for the first time a Zeppelin came 
down within sight of eyes watching from British soil. Our de- 
scendants will look back upon the era of those raids as one of 
the most curious in the history of the country. The face of the 
land was changed. Lighting restrictions plunged great cities into 
gloom, and London became as dim as in the days of Queen Anne, 
and vastly more dangerous for the pedestrian, owing to a speed of 
traffic undreamed of in the eighteenth century. Never had the 
metropolis looked more beautiful than on moonless nights, when 
small sparks of orange light gave mystery to the great thorough- 
fares and the white fingers of searchlights groped in the heavens. 
But never had it been a more uncomfortable habitation. The 
busy life of the capital had to adapt itself to the conditions of a 
remote and backward country town. 

It cannot be said that the raids had any real effect upon the 
good spirits and confidence of our people. Indeed at first they were 



324 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [May-Sept. 

taken too lightly, and regarded by the ordinary citizen rather as 
curious variety shows than as incidents of ruthless war. The 
first Zeppelin visits found us unprepared, and our only security 
lay in the unhandiness of the weapon employed. As the months 
passed we perfected our scheme of defence, and realized more 
clearly the limitations of the menace. Zeppelin attacks were largely 
blind. The great airships rarely knew where they were, and were 
compelled to drop their bombs on speculation, and the German 
reports of damage done had seldom much relation to the facts. 
Our anti-aircraft defences were largely increased, but we realized 
from the start that the true anti-Zeppelin weapon was the airplane, 
as Mr. Churchill had long before prophesied. To use it our pilots 
must practise the difficult task of making ascents and descents in 
the darkness. Once they had attained proficiency in night-work 
there was every reason to hope that the Zeppelins would no longer 
reach our shores unscathed. The early autumn of 19 16 made 
these hopes a certainty. 

Early in May, in a spell of bad weather, five German airships 
visited the north-east coast of England and the east coast of Scot- 
land. Little damage was done, and one of them, L20, was wrecked 
on its return voyage. At the end of July the weather grew warm 
and still, and the raids became frequent. On the night of 28th 
July three airships visited the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire coast, 
but they lost their way in the summer fog, and dropped their 
bombs in the sea and on empty fields. On the night of the 31st 
they came again, this time seven in number, and their area of 
attack stretched from the Thames estuary to the Humber. Their 
aim seemed to be to drop incendiary bombs among the growing 
crops, but little damage was done, and no lives were lost. On 3rd 
August eight appeared on the east coast, after attacking British 
trawlers out at sea. Again they lost their way, and after killing 
some live-stock were driven home by our guns. A week later a 
bolder attack was made, A flotilla, variously estimated at from 
seven to ten in number, appeared on the east coast of England 
and Scotland. A number of towns were attacked, half a dozen 
people were killed and some fifty injured, but no material damage 
was done. Then came a lull, during the August moonlight, and 
it was not till the night of 24th August that the raiders came 
again. There were six of them, and five were driven away by our 
gun-fire from the sea-coast town which they attacked. One 
succeeded in getting as far as London and dropped bombs in a 
working-class suburb, killing and wounding a number of poor 



I9I 6] ZEPPELIN v. AIRPLANE. 325 

people, mostly women and children. It was the last raid under 
the old regime. Henceforth the Zeppelin was to meet a weapon 
more powerful than itself. 

Saturday, 2nd September, was a heavy day, with an overcast 
sky, which cleared up at twilight. The situation on the Somme was 
becoming desperate, and Germany resolved to send against Britain 
the largest airship flotilla she had yet dispatched. There were 
ten Zeppelins, several of the newest and largest type, and three 
Schutte-Lanz military airships, and their objective was London 
and the great manufacturing cities of the Midlands. The Zep- 
pelins completely lost their way. They wandered over East Anglia, 
dropping irrelevant bombs, and received a warm reception from 
the British guns. The military airships made for London. Ample 
warning of their coming had been given, and the city was in deep 
darkness, save for the groping searchlights. The streets were full 
of people, whose curiosity mastered their prudence, and they were 
rewarded by one of the most marvellous spectacles which the war 
had yet provided. Two of the marauders were driven off by our 
gun-fire, but one attempted to reach the city from the east. After 
midnight the sky was clear and star-strewn. The sound of the guns 
was heard, and patches of bright light appeared in the heavens where 
our shells were bursting. Shortly after two o'clock in the morning 
of the 3rd, about 10,000 feet up in the air, an airship was seen 
moving south-westward. She dived and then climbed, as if to 
escape the shells, and for a moment seemed to be stationary. There 
came a burst of smoke which formed a screen around her and hid 
her from view, and then far above appeared little points of light. 
Suddenly the searchlights were shut off and the guns stopped. 
The next second the airship was visible like a glowing cigar, turning 
rapidly to a red and angry flame. She began to fall in a blazing 
wisp, lighting up the whole sky, so that country folk fifty miles off 
saw the portent. The spectators broke into wild cheering, for 
from some cause or other the raider had met his doom. The cause 
was soon known. Several airmen had gone up to meet the 
enemy, and one of them, Lieutenant William Leefe Robinson, 
formerly of the Worcester Regiment, a young man of twenty- 
one, had come to grips with her. When he found her, he was 
2,000 feet below her, but he climbed rapidly and soon won the 
upper position. He closed, and though the machine gun on 
the top of the airship opened fire on him, he got in his blow in 
time. No such duel had ever been fought before, 10,000 feet up 
in the sky, in the view of hundreds of thousands of spectators over 



326 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Sept. 

an area of a thousand square miles. The airship fell blazing in a 
field at Cuffley, near Enfield, a few miles north of London, and the 
bodies of the crew of sixteen were charred beyond recognition. 
Lieutenant Robinson received the Victoria Cross, for he was the 
first man to grapple successfully with an enemy airship by night, 
and to point the way to the true line of British defence. It was 
no easy victory. Such a combat against the far stronger armament 
of the airship, and exposed to constant danger from our own 
bursting shells, involved risks little short of a forlorn hope in the 
battlefield. 

On the night of 23rd September the raiders came again. 
Twelve Zeppelins crossed the eastern shore line, making for London. 
Almost at once they were scattered by gun fire, and only two 
pursued their journey to the capital, where they succeeded in drop- 
ping bombs in a suburb of small houses. Of the others one attacked 
a Midland town. The total British casualties were thirty killed 
and no injured. But they paid dearly for their enterprise. One, 
L33, was so seriously damaged by our anti-aircraft guns that she 
fled out to sea, and then, realizing that this meant certain death, 
returned to land, and came down in an Essex field. Her men, 
twenty-two in number, set her on fire, and then marched along 
the road to Colchester till they found a special constable, to whom 
they surrendered. The destruction was imperfectly done, and the 
remains gave the British authorities the complete details of the 
newest type of Zeppelin. A second, L32, was attacked by two 
of our airmen. The end was described by a special constable 
on duty. " In the searchlight beams she looked like an in- 
candescent bar of white-hot steel. Then she staggered and swung 
to and fro in the air for just a perceptible moment of time. That, 
no doubt, was the instant when the damage was done, and the 
huge craft became unmanageable. Then, without drifting at 
all from her approximate place in the sky, without any other pre- 
liminary, she fell like a stone, first horizontally — that is, in her 
sailing trim — then in a position which rapidly became perpendicular, 
she went down, a mass of flames." 

Germany had begun to fare badly in the air, but popular clamour 
and the vast sums sunk in Zeppelin manufacture prevented her 
from giving up the attempt. On the night of Monday, 25th Sep- 
tember, seven Zeppelins crossed the east coast, aiming at the 
industrial districts of the Midlands and the north. The wide 
area of the attack and the thick ground-mist enabled them to 
return without loss, after bombing various working-class districts. 



I 9 i6] THE END OF THE ZEPPELIN LEGEND. 327 

The Germans claimed to have done damage to the great munition 
area, and even to have " bombarded the British naval port of 
Portsmouth." As a matter of fact, no place of any military im- 
portance and no munition factory suffered harm. The losses 
were among humble people living in the flimsy houses of in- 
dustrial suburbs. A more formidable attempt was made on 1st 
October. It was a clear, dark night when ten Zeppelins made 
landfall on their way to London. But they found that the capital 
was ringed by defences in the air and on the ground which made 
approach impossible. The attack became a complete fiasco. 
About midnight one Zeppelin, L31, approached the north-east 
environs, and was engaged by a British airplane. The watching 
thousands saw the now familiar sight— a glow and then a falling 
wisp of flame. The airship crashed to earth in a field near Potter's 
Bar. The crew perished to a man, including the officer in charge, 
Lieutenant-Commander Mathy, the best-known of all the Zep- 
pelin pilots. He it was who had commanded the raiding airships 
in September and October 1915. He had always ridiculed the 
value of airplanes as an anti-Zeppelin weapon ; but by the irony of 
fate he was to fall to a single machine, guided by a young officer 
of twenty-six. 

During the wild weather of late October and early November 
there was a breathing space. The next attempt, warned by past 
experiences, steered clear of London, and aimed at the north-east 
coast, which, it was assumed, would be less strongly defended. 
It came on the night of 27th November, in cold, windless weather. 
One airship, after dropping a few bombs in Durham and Yorkshire, 
was engaged by a plane off the Durham coast. Once again came 
the glow and then the wisp of flame; the airship split in two 
before reaching the sea; the debris sank, and when day broke 
only a scum on the water marked its resting-place. Another 
wandered across the Midlands on its work of destruction, and in 
the morning steered for home, closely pursued by our airplanes 
and bombarded by our guns. It left the land going very fast at 
a height of 8,000 feet, but nine miles out to sea it was attacked by 
four machines of the Royal Naval Air Service, as well as by the 
guns of an armed trawler. The issue was not long in doubt, and 
presently the Zeppelin fell blazing to the water. 

The year 1916 was disastrous to the Zeppelin legend. The loss 
of twelve of these great machines, each costing from a quarter to 
half a million pounds to build, was admitted by the enemy, and 
beyond doubt there were other losses unreported. The Zeppelin 



328 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

fleet was now sadly reduced in effectives, and it had lost still more 
in repute. A way had been found to meet the menace, and it was 
improbable that any future adaptation of the Zeppelin could break 
down the new defence. But the peril from the air was not over, 
as some too rashly concluded. Throughout the year there had 
been a number of attacks by German airplanes, which rarely ex- 
tended beyond the towns in the south-eastern corner of England. 
Such attacks were not formidable, the raiders being as a rule in a 
desperate hurry to be gone. But it occurred to many, watching 
the advent of the new Spad and Halberstadt machines on the 
Western front, that in that quarter lay a threat to England more 
formidable than the airship. An airplane with a 240-h.p. engine, 
which could fly at a great speed at a height of close on 20,000 feet, 
could travel in broad daylight, and pass unchallenged to its goal. 
If we had not the type of machine to climb fast and operate at the 
same altitude, such a raider would be safe from attack alike by 
plane and gun fire. On the 28th of November a German machine, 
flying very high, dropped nine bombs on London. The raider 
was brought down in France on its way home, and among its 
furniture was a large-scale map of London. The incident was 
trifling in itself, but in many minds it raised unpleasing reflections. 
Our planes had beaten the invading Zeppelin. We might still have 
to face the invading airplane. 



CHAPTER LXIX. 

POLITICAL TRANSFORMATIONS. 

October 13-Decetnber 7, 1916. 

Effect of Battle of the Somme in Germany— Slave Raids in Belgium— German 
Auxiliary Service Bill — Proclamation of an independent Poland — M. Briand and 
his Cabinet — Jofire superseded by Nivelle — Mr. Lloyd George becomes Prime 
Minister. 

The closing months of 1916 were remarkable for a series of political 
upheavals and transformations among all the belligerents such as 
attend inevitably the advanced stages of a great struggle. The 
first optimism is succeeded by discouragement, which is followed in 
turn by a fatalistic resolution. But the stauncher this resolution 
grows, and the more certain the assurance of ultimate victory, 
the less tolerant will a nation be of supineness and blundering 
in its governors. If a man is called upon to make extreme sacri- 
fices he will not readily permit any class of his fellows to escape 
more easily, and if his doings are tried by a hard test he will apply 
a rigorous touchstone to the performance of his betters. Again, 
if a Ministry at such a stage is apt to be sternly judged, its task has 
also very special intrinsic difficulties. The nearer the decisive 
moment approaches the more urgent becomes the duty of pre- 
vision, and the more difficult its fulfilment. All the ancient land- 
marks and guide-posts have gone ; the old world which endured 
into the first year of war has now vanished ; and, if the statesmen 
are still the same as those who administered that lost world, they 
are handicapped by irrelevant memories. Lastly, war weariness 
will have overtaken many who started on the road with a brisk 
step and a purposeful eye, and a nation, rising slowly towards 
a supreme effort, will be impatient of leaders who seem to falter 
and fumble. 

In Germany the ferment stopped short of its natural effect. 
No Minister fell from power, but the Government was driven into 
strange courses. Happily for itself it had to deal with a docile 

«9 



330 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

people — a credulous people who accepted incredible things, an 
obedient people who swallowed with scarcely a grimace unpalatable 
medicines. Yet even in Germany public opinion could not be 
wholly neglected, and the policy of the German Government was 
directed not less to explaining away the crisis which faced them 
than to taking steps to meet it. 

The Battle of the Somme, as we have seen, had profoundly 
affected German popular opinion. No official obscurantism could 
conceal its ravages ; indeed the very silence of the newspapers, 
and the minimizing tone which they adopted in their infrequent 
comments, increased the mystery and awe which cloaked that 
front. The plain man knew only that the place was thick with 
his kinsfolks' graves, and all who possessed any influence struggled 
to have their friends sent eastwards rather than to that ill-omened 
angle of France. Instructed military opinion was aware that for 
the first time the German machine had been utterly outmatched, 
and that France and Britain had prepared their own weapon, 
growing daily in strength, which, unless a miracle happened, must 
sooner or later break down the German defence. In Ludendorff's 
ominous words, " If the war lasted our defeat seemed inevitable." 
The storms of the autumn had given a brief respite, but the blow 
had not been parried, but only deferred. A horror of the place 
fell on the German people, from the simplest peasant to the most 
exalted commanders. More and more they saw advancing from 
Picardy the shadows of catastrophe — 

" The darkness of that battle in the West 
Where all of high and holy dies away." 

In such a time of depression Falkenhayn's Rumanian success 
came as a blessed stimulant to the national spirit. A hungry 
people was promised a bounty of Rumanian corn and oil ; the swift 
campaign seemed to show German arms as resistless as ever ; the 
fate of Rumania was a warning to any neutral that might dare to 
draw the sword against the Teutonic League. But on this matter 
the High Command could have no delusions. They had driven 
back the armies of a little nation which was desperately short of 
munitions and had made a serious strategical blunder ; but the 
success had small bearing on the real problem. The extension of 
their lines to the Sereth shortened their Eastern front as compared 
with its position in September, but it did no more. It still gave 
them some extra hundreds of miles of line to hold as compared with 
August. The promise of Rumanian supplies had been falsified. 



igi6] THE GERMAN AUXILIARY SERVICE BILL. 331 

The oil-fields were in ruins, and most of the grain had been de- 
stroyed or removed ; the balance was a mere drop in the bucket of 
Teutonic needs, and would only lead to bitter quarrels as to its 
allocation. Moreover, the Rumanian retreat had not perplexed 
or divided the Allies' plans. Russia had made scarcely a change 
in her main dispositions, and not a man or a gun had been moved 
from the West. Germany— in the eyes of those best fitted to 
judge — had only added to her barren occupations of territory, 
and increased the commitments of her waning strength. 

Hence, while the joy-bells rang in Berlin, and the Emperor 
repeated his familiar speech about his irresistible sword, the true 
rulers of Germany were busy with devices which proved that 
in their opinion the outlook was growing desperate. The peace 
proposals and their sequel, unrestricted submarine warfare, must 
be left to later chapters. Here we are concerned with the two 
burning problems which demanded an immediate answer — the 
shortage of men and the shortage of supplies. 

With regard to the first, during the early autumn German 
policy seems to have wavered. At one time men were " combed 
out " from industries for the field ; at another they were sent back 
to industrial life from the fighting line. But with November a 
great step was decided upon. A War Bureau was established, 
to which were handed over eight separate branches — the Works 
Department, the Field Ordnance Department, the Munitions 
Department, the War Raw Materials Department, the Factory De- 
partment, the Substitution Service Office, the Food Supply 
Department, and the Export and Import Department. At its 
head was placed one of the ablest of Germany's organizing brains, 
the Wurtemberg soldier, General von Groner, who had previously 
been at the head of the Military Railway Service. This step was 
taken largely at the instigation of Hindenburg, who in two letters 
to the Imperial Chancellor reviewed candidly the economic situa- 
tion, and demanded the organized exploitation of every class of 
industrial and rural labour — of the former, that the Allied efforts 
might be met and surpassed ; of the latter, that the former might 
have sufficient supplies to make their work effective. Accordingly 
the Auxiliary Service Bill was passed by the Reichstag on 2nd 
December, legalizing the levee-en-masse. Contrary to expectation, 
women were not included. Every male German between the ages 
of seventeen and sixty-one, who had not been summoned to the 
armed forces, was liable for auxiliary service, which was defined as 
consisting, " apart from service in Government offices or official 



332 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

institutions, in service in war industry, in agriculture, in the nurs- 
ing of the sick, and in every kind of organization of an economic 
character connected with the war, as well as in undertakings 
which are directly or indirectly of importance for the purpose of 
the conduct of the war or the provision of the requirements of the 
people." The recruitment was to be locally managed, and com- 
pulsion was not to be applied until the call for volunteers had failed. 
The purpose was twofold — to substitute as far as possible in the 
non-combatant branches men liable to auxiliary service for men 
liable to military service, and to make certain that the work of 
the civilian manhood of Germany was used in the spheres most 
vital for the conduct of the war.* 

In her quest of man-power Germany cast her net beyond her 
native territories. From the beginning of October onward the 
inhabitants of the occupied Belgian provinces were rigorously 
conscripted for war work on her behalf. Partly these were work- 
men already thrown out of employment by the closing down of 
Belgian factories, but largely they were men engaged in private 
undertakings who were peremptorily ordered to labour for their 
new masters. Slave raids — for they were nothing better — were 
conducted on a gigantic scale, and some hundreds of thousands 
of Belgians were carried over the German frontiers. When the 
labourers learned on what tasks they were to be employed, there 
was frequent resistance, and this was crushed with consistent 
brutality. Belgium had already been stripped of her industrial 
plant, her foodstuffs, and her rolling stock for Germany's benefit, 
and she had now to surrender the poor remnant of her man-power. 
Her Foreign Minister appealed to neutral countries and to the 
Vatican, and the scandal was so great that President Wilson was 
moved to protest. But for the moment the Allies were helpless. 
They were obliged by considerations of common humanity to 
continue their work of feeding the Belgian people by means of a 
neutral Commission, even though Germany was using it to her 
own advantage by exporting foodstuffs from Belgium, and sus- 
pending public relief works that she might have an excuse for her 
deportations. The reckoning must wait yet awhile, but the 
" man-hunting " of the autumn added to it another heavy item. 
The British Government, in the words of its Foreign Secretary, 
could give Belgium only one answer : " That they will use their 
utmost power to bring the war to a speedy and successful con- 

* The scheme, as it turned out, was better on paper than in practice. See 
Ludendurft's criticism, My War Memories (Eng. trans.), I., 328, etc. 



1916] GERMAN POLICY IN POLAND. 333 

elusion, and thus to liberate Belgium once and for all from the 
dangers which continually menace her so long as the enemy remains 
in occupation of her territory. This is a cardinal aim and object 
of all the Allies, and the people of the British Empire have already 
been inspired by this latest proof of German brutality with re- 
newed determination to make every sacrifice for the attainment of 
that end." 

Germany looked also to the occupied territories in the East 
for a new recruitment. She had already made use of starvation 
to try and attract workmen from Russian Poland westward to 
her own factories. Now she took a bold step, for, with the object 
of enlisting Polish regiments for her army, she announced on 5th 
November that, in conjunction with Austria, she proposed to 
establish an independent Poland with an hereditary monarchy 
and a constitution. The thing had been long in the air, and the 
establishment of a Polish university at Warsaw had been one of 
the steps to it ; but the official announcement had been delayed 
so long as Berlin believed that there was hope of making a sepa- 
rate peace with Russia. Now that hope had gone, and Germany 
burned the boats that might have made a passage to Petrograd. 
The new Polish kingdom was to be but a small affair, for Posen 
and Galicia, which contained half the Polish race, were not in- 
cluded. It was to be a satellite of the Central Powers, and some 
one of their numerous princelings would be set on this caricature 
of the throne of John Sobieski. The very wording of the procla- 
mation betrayed its purpose. There was to be a Polish army, 
with an " organization, training, and command " to be " regu- 
lated by mutual agreement," and the German Press, commenting 
on the point, made it clear that such an army was to be a mere 
reserve for Germany to draw upon. " Germany's security," wrote 
the semi-official North German Gazette, " demands that for all 
future times the Russian armies shall not be able to use a mili- 
tarily consolidated Poland as an invasion gate of Silesia and West 
Prussia." With this motive so brazenly conspicuous, it required 
some audacity to claim that Germany and Austria now stood out 
nobly before the world as the true protectors of small nations. 
Hindenburg wanted recruits, and had demanded 700,000 by hook 
or by crook from Russian Poland. The new Poland was to be 
like Napoleon's Grand-Duchy of Warsaw, established with the 
same purpose, and at the same price. 

The move incensed Russia — even those elements in her Gov- 
ernment which were prepared to look favourably on a separate 



334 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov, 

peace. A proud nation will scarcely submit with equanimity to 
the spectacle of another Power giving away its territory and con- 
scripting its own subjects for a war against it. Nor could the 
long-felt and passionate desire of the Poles for national unity be 
satisfied by such meagre territorial limits or such an ignoble vassal- 
dom. Non tali auxilio, nee defensoribus istis. Unhappily, the 
Polish people were split into a hundred groups and rivalries, and 
there were many elements which were won over to the German 
policy. But the better elements in the race and its ablest leaders 
stood scornfully aloof. Germany gained nothing of practical value 
by her proclamation. The manhood of Russian Poland had already 
been mainly recruited for the Russian ranks. In the great retreat 
of the summer of 1915, the vast proportion of the remaining able- 
bodied men had been swept eastward into Russian areas. So far 
as she could by vigorous enlistment for the Polish Legion,* and 
by conscription for industrial work, Germany had already sucked 
the occupied territories dry. In the approbation of her own press 
and the encomiums of her tame Warsaw professors, she had to 
look for her reward. 

To meet the second of her problems, the shortage of supplies, 
she had no very clear resource. The ingenious Food Controller, 
Herr Batocki, had done his best to compel two and two to make 
five, but he had not succeeded ; and beyond doubt, especially in 
the handling of the potato crop, grave errors had been committed, 
and certain areas and classes suffered not only from scanty rations 
but from a burning sense of unfair treatment. As the expected 
gains from the Rumanian campaign shrank into a very modest 
bounty, the problem of the Food Controller became insoluble. Only 
one course remained — to satisfy popular feeling by a ruthless sub- 
marine campaign. If Britain blockaded Germany, then Germany 
in turn would blockade Britain, and through the early winter the 
temper of all classes of the nation was moving towards a great act 
of revenge and defence in the spring. But no dreams of the future 
could obliterate the extreme awkwardness of the present. Ger- 
many had before her nine months of short commons before she 

* The Polish Legion, fighting on the Austrian side, grew out of the militant 
wing of the Polish Socialist party in Warsaw during the Russian revolutionary 
troubles of 1905. The militants, when repudiated by the party in 1906, withdrew 
to Galicia and organized on a military basis. Their numbers throughout the earlier 
part of the campaign were between 30,000 and 50,000. Their leader, Pilsudski, was 
made an Austrian brigadier-general, and in the spring of 1916, during the battles on 
the Stokhod, actually withdrew his troops from the line as a political move. His 
German army commander promptly cashiered him. 



I9 i6] OFFICIAL UTTERANCES. 335 

could look for any relief. Though the rations of her troops were 
not cut down below the standard necessary to ensure health and 
vigour, their monotony was a subject of universal complaint. 
In many interior districts the shortage was not far removed from 
want, and there was a general under-nourishment of the whole 
people. The suffering was embittered by the suspicion, only too 
well founded, that certain classes were exempt from it, and were 
even waxing fat on the leanness of others. At no time in modern 
German history were the agrarian magnates of Prussia the objects 
of such violent criticism. Moreover, there was bad feeling between 
the constituent states. Bavaria and South Germany in general 
complained that they were being sacrificed to satisfy Prussia's 
need. In many a prisoners' camp on the Western front Bavarian 
and Brandenburger came to blows, and the subject of controversy, 
as often as not, was the greed of the northerners. 

The utterances of official Germany during the autumn and 
early winter provided an interesting reflex of the hopes and de- 
pressions which beset the German mind. In October the Imperial 
Crown Prince, who had of late fallen sadly out of the picture, 
sought rehabilitation by a discourse on the beauties of peace. 
His lyrical cry was confided to an American journalist, and formed 
one of the interludes of comedy in the grim business of war. 
He sighed over the commercial depravity of America, which had 
led her financiers to invest in the Allied chances of success, and 
quoted the Bible as a warning against the lust of gain. He de- 
plored the expenditure of human talent on the work of destruction, 
and assured his interviewer that every man in the German ranks 
" would far rather see all this labour, skill, education, intellectual 
resource, and physical power devoted to the task of upholding 
and lengthening life," such as the conquest of disease. He pro- 
claimed his passion for domesticity, and his grief at being separated 
from his household. He paid modest tributes to the quality of 
the enemy. " It is a pity," he said, " that all cannot be gentle- 
men and sportsmen, even if we are enemies." And lastly he spoke 
of flowers and music, that he might complete the part of the Happy 
Warrior. In the same month a different type of man took up 
a different parable. Hindenburg informed a Viennese journalist 
that the situation on every front was secure and hopeful. He 
announced that he was ready, if necessary, for a thirty years' war. 
France was even now exhausted. She had called Britain to her 
assistance, and " the help which her Ally gives is that she is forcing 
the French to destroy themselves." Britain had no military 



336 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

genius, and Russia's numbers could never learn true battle dis- 
cipline. " How long will the war last ? That depends upon our 
opponents. Prophecy is thankless, and it is better to abandon 
it in war-time. It is possible that 19 17 will bring battles that will 
decide the war, but I do not know, and nobody knows. I only 
know that we will fight to a decision." 

These were brave words. They were spoken to raise the 
drooping spirits of Austria, and they had their effect so long as 
daily advances east of the Carpathians could be reported. But 
the governors of Germany were not contemplating a thirty years' 
war ; they were cudgelling their brains to think how their Ru- 
manian success could be turned to profit, for well they knew that 
it was of use only as an advertisement, and that the true situa- 
tion was very desperate. Bethmann-Hollweg on 9th Novem- 
ber made a speech in the Reichstag which showed the inmost 
cogitations of Berlin. The orations of the Imperial Chancellor 
were at all times a good barometer of German opinion, for their 
mechanical adroitness revealed more than it concealed. During 
1915 he had explicitly stated his aim as such an increase of strength 
as would enable Germany to defy a united Europe. " If Europe 
is to arrive at peace, it can only be through the strong and 
inviolable position of Germany " — a revival of the policy of 
Charles V. and Louis XIV. In the first half of 1916 his tone was 
the same. Belgium and Poland must be brought under the con- 
trol of Germany, and peace could only be considered on the 
basis of the war-map. But after the misfortunes of the summer 
he changed his phrasing. On 29th September he announced : 
" From the first day the war meant for us nothing but the defence 
of our right to life, freedom, and development ; " but he left the 
last word, the crux of the whole matter, undefined. 

The speech of 9th November was skilfully advertised before- 
hand, and had obviously been prepared with great care as the 
starting-point of a new diplomatic phase. It contained the usual 
roseate summary of the situation upon all the fronts ; but its 
importance lay in the fact that for the first time the Imperial 
Chancellor talked at large about peace. He laboured to prepare 
the right atmosphere by showing that Germany's hands were 
clean, that she had had no intention of conquest when she drew 
the sword, and that from first to last she had waged a defensive 
war. He attempted to cast upon Russia the whole responsibility 
for the immediate outbreak, since the " act which made war 
inevitable was the Russian general mobilization ordered on the 



1916] THE ITALIAN CABINET. 337 

night of July 30-31, 1914." This dubious historical retrospect 
was the basis for a declaration on the subject of the future after the 
war. Sir Edward Grey (now Lord Grey of Fallodon), in an earlier 
speech, had spoken of an international league to preserve peace. 
The German Chancellor professed himself in agreement. But 
peace could only be ensured " if the principle of free development 
was made to prevail not only on the land but on the sea." And 
it must involve the dissolution of all aggressive coalitions. The 
Triple Entente had been based solely on jealousy of and hostility 
towards Germany, while the Central Powers had never had any 
thought but of an honourable defence. Let peace come, said the 
Chancellor, and let it be guaranteed by the strongest sanctions 
that the wit of man can devise, and Germany will gladly co-operate 
— provided it allows for her free and just development. On the 
word " development " hung all the law and the prophets. The 
speech, it is clear, was addressed to neutral opinion rather than to 
the speaker's countrymen. It aimed at creating an atmosphere 
of reasonableness. Victorious Germany, fresh from her brilliant 
Rumanian conquests, and unbeaten on every front, was prepared to 
appeal to the sense of decency of the neutral world. She, the victor, 
alone could speak with dignity of peace. It needed little acumen 
to see that the Imperial Chancellor's utterance was the first move 
in a new game. 

The political situation in Russia during the autumn was, as 
we have seen, in the highest degree confused and perplexing. 
On one point, indeed, the issue was clear. The German challenge 
in Poland received prompt answer. Russia restated the views 
which she had already publicly expressed, and announced that 
nothing would drive her from her purpose of creating a free and 
united Poland under her protection, " from all three of her now 
incomplete tribal districts." But in domestic politics there was 
no such unity of purpose, and already the frail dykes were crack- 
ing under the rising floods. 

In Italy the Boselli Government had no crisis to face such as 
threatened others of the Allies. The chief event of the autumn 
and early winter was a futile attempt on the part of the extreme 
Socialists to commit the Chamber to peace negotiations, for which 
German agents were striving throughout the world to create an 
atmosphere. On 13th October Signor Bissolati,* the Civil Commis- 

* When Italy declared war he had enlisted in the Alpini, though over military 
age, and had been severely wounded and decorated for valour. 



338 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov.-Dec. 

sioner of War in the Cabinet, had spoken strongly on the matter. 
" I think that any state or states of the Alliance which to-day 
harboured thoughts of peace would be guilty of an act of treason. 
Rather than accept peace contaminated with the germs of future 
wars it would have been better not to have embarked on the present 
struggle at all. The germ of war can only be killed by destroying 
Austria as a state, and by depriving Germany of every illusion of 
predominance." Italy, as we know, had difficulties peculiar to 
herself. Her popular feeling was mobilized rather against Austria 
than Germany, and the ancient ramifications of German intrigue 
and German finance in her midst, combined with the very real 
economic suffering which the war now entailed, made her liable to 
sudden spasms of popular discontent and suspicion. Almost alone 
among the Allies, she had an avowed anti-war and Germanophil 
party to reckon with. At the end of November the pro-German 
Socialists in the Chamber, led by a Jew of German extraction, 
brought forward a motion in favour of immediate peace, to be 
secured by the mediation of the United States of America. The 
Chamber dealt drastically with the motion, rejecting it by 293 
votes to 47, and Signor Boselli, the Premier, restated in eloquent 
words the central principle of the Allies. " Peace must be a pact 
born of armed victory — a peace for which Italy has drawn the 
sword in the name of maritime and territorial claims, that are not 
mere poetry, but a reality of her history and of her existence ; a 
peace which, in order to be lasting, must replace the equilibrium 
of the old treaties by an equilibrium built up upon the rights 
of nationalism. We seek not the peace of a day, but the peace 
of new centuries." 

The Government of M. Briand had not at any time an easy 
seat, and during the early winter it had to face a series of petty 
crises. In France there was no ebullition of pacificism worth 
the name. The futile demonstration of the socialist M. Brizon, 
in September, was overwhelmed by the Premier's torrential elo- 
quence, and its author exposed to general ridicule. But M. Briand 
held office rather because no alternative was very obvious than 
because he had the assent of all parties. He was somewhat auto- 
cratic in his methods, and preferred to govern with the minimum 
of parliamentary assistance. The difficulties in the Near East, 
in which France had a peculiar interest, and the apparent futility 
of the Allied policy in Greece, did not make his task simpler. 

The discontent of the opposition came to a head in the close of 
November and beginning of December. The scarcity of coal, the 



1916] RETIREMENT OF JOFFRE. 339 

high price of food, the losses of the Somme campaign, certain failures 
in transport, and doubts as to the capacity of various elements 
in the High Command, made a basis for criticism of the Govern- 
ment. In a series of stormy secret sessions, which revealed a 
curious regrouping of parties, M. Briand was called upon to defend 
his policy. He succeeded, though his majority dwindled and 
most of the deputies on leave from the Front were found voting 
in the minority. The result of the debates was that he was given 
a mandate to reconstruct his Government, and to reorganize the 
High Command. The first was a matter of consolidation and 
readjustment, rather than the sweeping innovation which about 
the same time was taking place in Britain. The Cabinet was 
made smaller, three departments being grouped under one chief. 
The Prime Minister still held the portfolio of Foreign Affairs, 
M. Ribot remained at the Exchequer, and Admiral Lacaze at the 
Ministry of Marine. An inner executive Cabinet was constructed 
in the shape of a War Committee of five on the British model. 
The most interesting appointment was that of General Lyautey, 
the Resident-General in Morocco, to the Ministry of War. On his 
great ability and experience all Frenchmen were agreed ; but there 
was some doubt as to how a soldier, whose life had been mainly 
spent abroad, and who had no parliamentary experience, would 
work with the Chamber. It looked as if the extra-parliamentary 
nature of the administration, which had been the chief topic of 
M. Briand's critics, was to be accentuated by the reconstruction. 

Far more remarkable were the changes in the High Command. 
Popular opinion in France was passing through a critical stage, 
and for the first time civilian views and political personalities 
tended to influence directly military plans and the High Command. 
The Somme had not been the decisive victory that had been looked 
for, and France's losses there, following upon those at Verdun, 
had alarmed the Cabinet, and, much exaggerated by rumour, had 
shocked the ordinary public. Foch was the first to suffer. A 
motoring accident in November was made an excuse for removing 
him from his command, and for several months the greatest of 
living soldiers was unemployed. Then the wave reached Joffre, 
and that robust figure was swept from his place. His unrelieved 
optimism had become a mannerism that palled ; some said he 
was growing senile ; it was rumoured, too, that he considered that 
France's great part in the war was over and that the main attacks 
must now be left to the British. So he relinquished the office of 
Generalissimo, which he had held since the outbreak of war, and 



340 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

was nominated military adviser to the new War Committee, being 
at the same time created a Marshal of France, the first holder of 
that famous title to be appointed by the Third Republic. To 
the command in the West Nivelle succeeded, a much younger man 
who had won brilliant successes at Verdun, and had a plan for 
winning a speedy and final victory by methods very different from 
the tortoise-like progression of the Somme. The military sig- 
nificance of these changes will be discussed later ; here let us 
take leave of one of the most honourable and attractive figures 
that this narrative will reveal. The services of Joffre to his country 
and to the Allied cause had been beyond all computation, and 
in the history of the time his is one of the two or three names 
that will shine most brightly. To his skill and nerve and patience 
was due the triumph of the Marne, won when the skies were darkest, 
which destroyed for ever the German hope of victory. He had been, 
like Ajax, the pillar and shield of his people, and his rock-like 
figure had held the confidence of his country since the guns first 
opened in Alsace. To him more than to any other man was due 
the superb military effort of France and her unyielding resolution. 
He had brilliant lieutenants, some of them his superiors in the 
technical accomplishments of a soldier, but his was always the 
deciding will and the directing brain. 

During the autumn it was becoming clear that the Coalition 
Government in Britain was rapidly sinking in public esteem. 
There was perhaps less captious criticism of particular Ministers 
than there had been a year before ; but there was a deep-seated 
dissatisfaction, and an impatience the more dangerous in that it 
was more rarely expressed in words. The root of the feeling was 
the belief that the Government was too much inclined to try to cure 
an earthquake by small political pills. " The war is a cyclone," 
Mr. Lloyd George had told the trade unions, " which is tearing up 
by the roots the ornamental plants of modern society, and wrecking 
some of the flimsy trestle bridges of modern civilization. It is an 
earthquake which is upheaving the very rocks of European life. 
It is one of those seismic disturbances in which nations leap for- 
ward or fall back generations in a single bound." The ordinary 
citizen believed this, and looked for proofs of a like conviction in 
the public acts of his Government. 

The Coalition formed in May 1915 had not been a mobilization 
of the best talent of the nation, but a compromise between party 
interests. It contained most of the men who in the previous 



1916] CRITICISM OF BRITISH GOVERNMENT. 341 

Liberal Government had been responsible for the mistakes and 
over-confidence of the first nine months of war. Its guiding prin- 
ciple had resembled too closely that of an ordinary British Govern- 
ment in times of peace — to keep the Ministry together at all costs 
by a series of eirenica and formulas ill suited to a supreme crisis, 
for, as has been well said, " the tremulous cohesion of a vacillating 
Ministry is not the same thing as national unity." It had seemed 
to many people to lack courage. All its members declared that 
great sacrifices were necessary for victory ; but when it came to 
the question of a particular sacrifice they were apt to hesitate. 
The result of the National Service controversy proved that this 
hesitation was needless. In this, as in other matters, the people 
were in advance of their governors. It would be unfair to deny 
that a vast deal of good work had been done between May 1915 
and December 1916 ; but in many vital matters efficiency was to 
seek, and, generally speaking, there was more political than ad- 
ministrative talent among Ministers. Further, the main machinery 
was not fitted for the prompt dispatch of business. A Cabinet 
of twenty-three members, even with the added device of special 
War Committees, is not an ideal body for prompt decision and 
quick action. To quote Mr. Lloyd George again, " You cannot 
conduct a war with a sanhedrin." 

During the autumn of 1916 men of all classes were beginning 
to ask themselves whether the Government, as then constituted, 
was capable of bringing the war to a successful issue. Instances of 
apparent timidity and lack of forethought and imagination had so 
grown in number as to constitute a weighty, if unformulated, in- 
dictment in the popular mind. Many of the charges were unfair. 
The unsatisfactory position in the Near East sprang from causes 
most of which could not be rightly laid to the charge of the Coali- 
tion. The disasters of Rumania were blamed, with little reason, 
on the Foreign Office. The halt of the British advance on the 
Somme, due to bad weather, was made the occasion by certain 
irresponsible critics for declaring that the great battle had failed, 
that our Western strategy was a blunder, and that the lives of 
our young men had been squandered in vain. But there were other 
complaints which had greater substance. The whole question of 
pensions was unsatisfactory, and there was growing discontent 
among the classes concerned. The Air Board seemed to be without 
a clear policy ; the revival of German long-range submarine activity, 
contrary to popular expectation, suggested that all was not well 
at the Admiralty. The military authorities had warned the nation 



342 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

that we should have to make large further levies on our man- 
power ; and at the end of September 1915 a Man-Power Dis- 
tribution Board was appointed to deal with the matter. The 
Board recommended a wholesale drafting of semi-skilled and un- 
skilled men below a certain age into the Army, and the filling of 
their places by volunteers and women. Its report was submitted 
on 9th November, but it looked as if no immediate action would 
be taken. Finally, the rise of prices convinced every householder 
that presently, unless something was done, there would be a serious 
shortage of food and conceivably a famine. In June 1915 a Com- 
mittee had been appointed under Lord Milner to consider the ques- 
tion of food production at home. A month later it reported, 
urging, among other things, that a guarantee of prices should be 
given for wheat grown on land broken up from grass, and that the 
country should be organized in local units for the distribution of 
labour and the supply of seeds and fertilizers. The report was 
pigeon-holed, the Government accepting the view of the minority 
that the submarine menace was now well in hand ; that there was 
no fear of a short supply of wheat from abroad ; and that it was 
" unnecessary to adopt any extraordinary measures to ensure a 
home-grown supply, even if the war should extend beyond the 
autumn of 1916." In the said autumn this complacency had been 
rudely broken. On November 15, 1916, Mr. Runciman announced 
the appointment of a Food Controller ; but no Food Controller 
was forthcoming, since no responsible man would undertake a post 
which it was proposed to make a mere impotent appendage of the 
Board of Trade. Even at that late date the Government seemed 
only to toy with the idea of action. 

It is probable that for many months the great majority of the 
people of Britain had been convinced that a change was necessary. 
But the Government was slow to read the weather signs. With 
the conservatism that a long term of power engenders, its chief 
members found some difficulty in envisaging an alternative Min- 
istry. They were patriotic men, who earnestly desired their 
country's victory, and they feared that Cabinet changes and 
resignations would weaken the strength of the nation and the 
confidence of the Allies. Hence, when the blow came, there was 
a tendency to attribute it solely to a malign conspiracy and a 
calumnious press. Conspiracy and press campaign there were, 
but it is impossible to believe that in the crisis of such a war any 
Government could have been driven from office by backstair 
intrigues alone or by the most skilful newspaper cabal. The 



i 9 i6] MR. LLOYD GEORGE'S PROPOSAL. 343 

press which criticized owed its effect solely to the fact that it 
echoed what was in most men's minds. Mr. Asquith's Govern- 
ment fell because the mass of the people had come to believe, 
rightly or wrongly, that it was not the kind of administration to 
beat the enemy. 

The details of the story may be briefly summarized, for though 
among so many great events they have little importance, yet they 
cast an interesting light on certain protagonists of the larger drama. 
Mr. Lloyd George, ever since in the preceding summer he had 
succeeded Lord Kitchener at the War Office, had been restless 
and uncomfortable. Sir William Robertson, when he became 
Chief of the Imperial General Staff, had insisted on a definition 
of his powers, and the agreement then reached was binding upon 
Lord Kitchener's successor. Mr. Lloyd George found himself a 
secondary figure at the War Office ; certain indiscretions during a 
visit to France that autumn had made him deeply suspect by 
both the British and the French generals ; in the Cabinet, too, 
it appeared as if his influence was on the wane. His prestige, 
still high with the public at large, had sunk low in official and 
ministerial circles. Apart from the personal question, he was 
honestly convinced that the war was being ill managed both by 
the generals in the field and the statesmen at home, and longed 
to infuse into its conduct a fierier purpose. At the time he had 
no close political ally except Mr. Churchill, who was out of office 
and somewhat under a cloud. Casting about for help, he bethought 
himself of the Unionist leader in the Commons, Mr. Bonar Law, 
and of an intimate friend of that leader, a young Canadian member 
of Parliament, Sir Maxwell Aitken. 

Mr. Bonar Law was at the moment a tired and anxious man, 
and a controversy with some of his own followers, over a bill 
authorizing the sale of enemy property in West Africa, had seri- 
ously troubled him, and predisposed him to think that the exist- 
ing arrangement was not the best conceivable. Mr. Lloyd George's 
scheme was for a very small War Committee of three members, 
of which the Prime Minister should not be one — a scheme not 
devised, as might appear at first sight, to compel Mr. Asquith's 
resignation, but a quite sincere attempt to get the actual direction 
of the war into more vigorous hands. Mr. Bonar Law, whose 
simplicity was as great as his probity and patriotism, believed that 
Mr. Asquith might fairly accept it ; but the Prime Minister, while 
agreeing to the small War Committee, not unnaturally refused thus 
to divest himself of the main duty of leadership. 



344 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

On Friday, ist December, two newspapers in Mr. Lloyd George's 
confidence published a guarded account of the controversy, and 
next day the journals of Lord Northcliffe, who was now made 
privy to the enterprise, informed the world that Mr. Lloj'd George 
was on the point of resignation. On Sunday, 3rd December, Mr. 
Bonar Law called a meeting of the Unionist leaders, and to his 
surprise found that they did not regard Mr. Lloyd George's depart- 
ure from the Government as an unmixed misfortune. They were 
anxious that Mr. Asquith should resign as a tactical measure, and 
in order that he might reconstruct with a free hand they were 
prepared at the same time to tender their own resignations ; but 
it was clear that they hoped that the new Cabinet would not include 
Mr. Lloyd George. Mr. Bonar Law, whose motive was not to 
get rid of Mr. Asquith but to retain the great talents of the Secre- 
tary for War, visited the Prime Minister that afternoon and urged 
a settlement. To this the latter agreed, consenting not to be a 
member of the War Committee, provided he had effective control 
over its decisions. 

But to Mr. Lloyd George and those in his full confidence — 
who at this time were only Sir Maxwell Aitken and Sir Edward 
Carson — such a settlement was not sufficient. They were resolved 
that Mr. Asquith's supremacy should be purely titular. On the 
morning of Monday, 4th December, the Times printed a leading 
article describing the arrangement, and insisting that the Prime 
Minister had to all intents abdicated from the control of the war. 
This move had an instantaneous effect. The Liberal Ministers 
rose in arms, and Mr. Asquith was compelled to revise his agree- 
ment of the Sunday and insist that he must be permanent presi- 
dent of the War Committee. Mr. Lloyd George had therefore to 
burn his boats, and on the Tuesday announced his resignation. 
That same day the Prime Minister was visited by various Unionist 
colleagues, who angrily dissociated themselves from any partner- 
ship in the manoeuvre of the Secretary for War. 

Mr. Asquith now took a step which seemed to be amply justified, 
but which in truth was fatal to his fortunes. He himself tendered 
his resignation. Counting on the support of the bulk of the Liberal 
and Unionist parties, he argued that it would be impossible for 
his malcontent colleague to form a Government. Fate seemed to 
have delivered Mr. Lloyd George into his hands. The King sent for 
Mr. Bonar Law, who, after taking a day and a night to think over 
it, declared himself unable to construct an administration, and 
advised his Majesty to summon Mr. Lloyd George. Mr. Lloyd 



i 9 i6J MR. LLOYD GEORGE PRIME MINISTER. 345 

George was accordingly sent for, and on the evening of 7th December 
kissed hands as Prime Minister. 

He had played a daring game with consummate coolness and 
courage, and he believed that he had the people of the country 
behind him. But for the moment his first need was the Unionist 
party if he was to form any kind of presentable Government. 
Mr. Balfour was ill in bed ; he had consequently had no part in the 
hectic negotiations of the past week, and was imperfectly informed 
about the details. When the Foreign Office was pressed upon him by 
Mr. Bonar Law as a patriotic duty he consented, and his adherence 
brought in the rest of the Unionist statesmen. The latter insisted, 
however, that Mr. Churchill should not be given office, a condition 
at which the new Prime Minister did not cavil. Mr. Lloyd George's 
first task was to appoint a War Cabinet. He called to it Lord 
Milner and Mr. Arthur Henderson as Ministers without portfolios ; 
Lord Curzon, the new President of the Council ; and Mr. Bonar 
Law, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer ; while he himself 
acted as its chairman. This body of five was entrusted with all 
matters pertaining to the conduct of the war. Sir Edward Carson 
became First Lord of the Admiralty, and Lord Derby Secretary 
for War. Since the ordinary political material was limited, some 
bold experiments were made, experts with little or no parliamentary 
experience being brought to special departments — Sir Albert 
Stanley to the Board of Trade, Mr. H. A. L. Fisher to the Education 
Office, Sir Joseph Maclay to the new Shipping Department, Mr. 
Prothero to the Board of Agriculture, and Sir Hardman Lever to 
the Treasury as Financial Secretary. The posts in the new Min- 
istry were roughly divided between Liberal and Labour members 
and Unionists. All the Liberal Cabinet Ministers followed the late 
Prime Minister into retirement ; but at a party meeting on 13th 
December, under the direction of Mr. Asquith, they pledged them- 
selves to give Mr. Lloyd George's administration a fair trial. 

The fate of Mr. Asquith's Government will, it is probable, be 
for future historians something of a landmark in the political 
history of Britain. It marked, some have argued, the end of the 
pre-eminence of a school of thought which had flourished since the 
fat days of the Victorian era ; a school which had done good ser- 
vice in its day, and which contained many elements of permanent 
worth, but which had been invested by its votaries with a Sinaitic 
sanction that no poor creed of mortal statecraft could long sustain. 
These matters lie outside the province of a historian of the war. 
But, since contemporary public opinion is within that province, 



346 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

we may briefly inquire why a Government so solidly buttressed 
should suffer such a sudden eclipse. Whatever be our view of 
the necessity of the change of Ministers, we can admit that the 
manner of it was ungracious. The Prime Minister and the Foreign 
Secretary, who had laboured long and hard in the service of their 
country, retired to the accompaniment of much coarse abuse 
from a section of the press. As a race we are magnanimous, and 
not careless of the decencies. Whence came this lapse from our 
normal practice ? Whence sprang the nearly universal conviction 
that horses must be swopped, however turbulent the stream ? 

It is to be observed, in the first place, that a change of leaders 
in a long struggle is the usual practice of nations. In most of the 
great wars of history the men, both soldiers and civilians, who 
began the struggle have not been those who concluded it. Lin- 
coln was the exception, not the rule. Since August 1914, in all 
the belligerent States there had been much shuffling of cabinets 
and commands. Germany had seen three successive chiefs of 
the General Staff, and if the same Imperial Chancellor continued 
in office, it was only because he was removed beyond the reach 
of the mutations of the popular will. In Russia the leadership 
of the armies had already passed from the Grand Duke Nicholas 
to Alexeiev ; the Premiership from Goremykin to Sturm er, and 
from Sturmer to Trepov. Italy had changed her Premier once ; 
France had had several Cabinet reconstructions, and had now a 
new Commander-in-Chief. Among departmental heads in every 
country there had been a continuous and bewildering exchange ; 
France had had three Ministers of War, Britain two, and Russia 
three — to take the office where change was prima facie least desir- 
able. The British Prime Minister and the British Foreign Secre- 
tary seemed almost the only stable things in a shifting world. 

That new leaders should be demanded in a strife which affects 
national existence is as inevitable as the changes of the seasons. 
The problems of the second and third stages of a war are not those 
of the first stage, and the man who has borne the heat and burden 
of the morning will be apt to bring a stale body and a wearied brain 
to the tasks of the afternoon. Few leaders are so elastic in mind 
that, having given all their strength to one set of problems, they 
can turn with unabated vigour to new needs and new conditions. 
The odds are that the man who has shown himself an adept in a 
patient defensive will not be the man to lead a swift advance. 
Again, every war is a packet of surprises, and the early stages must 
be strewn with failures. History may rate the general who has 



i 9 i6] MR. ASQUITH. 347 

endured and learned the lessons of failure far higher than his 
successor who reaps the fruit of that learning, but contemporaries 
have not this just perspective. The nature of the popular mind 
must be reckoned with, and that mind will turn eagerly from one 
who is identified with dark days of stress to one who comes to his 
task with a more cheerful record. The nation, which bears the 
brunt of the struggle, must be able to view its leaders with hope- 
fulness, and in all novelty there is hope. 

The demand for change is likely to be the stronger in the case 
of a civilian Government, if its members entered upon the war 
already weary from long years of office, and if one of their claims to 
fame has been skill in the common type of politics, a type which 
has been wrecked by the new era and has left in the popular mind 
a strong distaste. This was very notably the case with Mr. Asquith 
and some of his chief supporters. The Liberal Government had 
been continuously in office since the close of 1905 ; it had gone 
through three General Elections ; it had been engaged in many 
bitter disputes, and had weathered more than one serious crisis. 
After eight such difficult years there must inevitably have followed 
some decline in the elasticity and vigour of those who were re- 
sponsible in such stormy waters for the ship of state. Again, 
those eight years had been years of conspicuous success in party 
management. The art of directing the House of Commons had 
rarely been carried higher than by Mr. Asquith, and great was the 
skill of those lieutenants who cultivated and manipulated the 
caucus. But after three months of war the caucus was futile, 
and the party catchwords meaningless. More, there was growing 
up in the popular mind a dislike of the whole business, a suspicion, 
not wholly baseless, that Britain owed some of her misfortunes 
to this particular expertise. The skill, so loudly acclaimed a year 
before both by those who benefited and by those who suffered 
from it, seemed now not only useless but sinister. The dapper 
political expert was as much in the shadow as the champion faro 
player in a western American township which has been visited by 
a religious revival. It was no question of political creed. The 
same fate would have overtaken a Conservative or a Labour 
Government if it had been in power before the war. It was 
the reaction of the plain man, plunged into a desperate crisis, 
against the sleek standards of a vanished world. 

Lastly, there was that in the temperament and talents of the 
Prime Minister himself upon which the nation had begun to look 
coldly. His great ability no man could question — his oratorical 



348 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

gifts, his diplomatic skill, his shrewd and closely reasoning mind. 
Not less conspicuous were his endowments of character. He had 
admirable nerve and courage, and as a consequence he was the 
most loyal of colleagues, for he never shrank from accepting the 
burden of his own mistakes and those of his subordinates. He 
was incapable of intrigue in any form. He had true personal 
dignity, caring little for either abuse or praise, and shunning the 
arts of self-advertisement. But he left on the ordinary mind the 
impression that he thought more of argument than of action. 
To most men he was identified with a political maxim enjoining 
delay, and in many matters his Ministry had been too late. He 
was a man of the old regime, devoted to traditional methods and 
historic watchwords ; his intellect was lucid and orderly, but in no 
way original ; and the nation asked whether such a man could 
have that eye for the " instant need of things " which an unpre- 
cedented crisis demands. It seemed to his critics impossible to 
expect the unresting activity and the bold origination which the 
situation required from one whose habits of thought and deed were 
cast in the more leisurely mould of the elder school of statesmen. 

When a people judges there is usually reason in its verdict, and 
it is idle to argue that Mr. Asquith was a perfect, or perhaps 
the best available, leader in war time. But history will not let 
his remarkable services go unacclaimed. In August 1914 he had 
led the nation in the path of honour and political wisdom. No 
man had stated more eloquently the essential principles for which 
Britain fought, or held to them more resolutely. In a tangle of 
conflicting policies he had kept always in the mind of the public 
the vital point of the quarrel with the Central Powers. And if his 
optimism had at times an unfortunate effect, there can be little 
doubt that his steady nerve, coolness, and patience did much to keep 
an even temper in the people during days of disappointment and 
darkness. He departed from office with the dignity that he had 
worn in power, and he behaved throughout in all respects not as 
a party chief but as a patriot. History will see in him a great 
debater, a great parliamentarian, a great public servant, and a 
great gentleman. 



CHAPTER LXX. 

THE GERMAN MANOEUVRES FOR PEACE. 

November g, 1916-February 1, 1917. 

Origin of German Peace Offer — The Imperial Chancellor's Speech of 12th December 
— The German Note — The Answer of the Allies — President Wilson's Note — 
Germany declares unrestricted Submarine Warfare. 

Throughout the autumn of 1916 the German troops and people 
were encouraged with hints of peace by Christmastide. The 
Imperial Chancellor, in his speech of 9th November, spoke smooth 
words, and the mind of the nation was prepared for his declaration 
of 1 2th December in the Reichstag, and the dispatch on the same 
day of a summons to the enemies of Germany to enter into negotia- 
tions. Before we deal with these overtures, it is necessary to 
consider the state of mind which prompted them. 

Germany's diplomacy had never been distinguished by subtlety. 
He who ran might read as in large type the motives of her 
numerous pronunciamentos. The causes which she wished the 
world to believe to have guided her action were always explicitly 
stated, but the true reasons could be observed sticking out like the 
stuffing from a damaged marionette. In the present case she 
adopted the role of a generous conqueror. She had won in every 
field, but out of the fullness of her strength and the greatness of 
her soul she would condescend to treat with beaten antagonists for 
the sake of humanity and the world's future. It is safe to say that 
the pose deceived no one except the more ignorant and credulous 
classes of her own people. She had begun the campaign with loud 
talk about the rights of Germany founded on a higher kultur, and 
with proclamations of her " will to power." When her great offen- 
sive was foiled — but not till then — she discovered that she had 
always been waging a defensive war, and asked but the security 
of her frontiers and the opportunity of peaceful development. 

But her own spoken and written words, and, above all, her deeds, 

349 



350 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

remained as damning evidence against her. If she abated one 
jot of her earlier pretensions, it was due not to a change of heart 
but to a change of circumstance. 

Her first motive was prudential. The tide of her success had 
long ago begun to turn, and she wished to arrest the ebb while 
yet there was time. Deeply embarrassed as she was, she still 
occupied much foreign territory, which might be used in bargaining. 
The Battle of the Somme had shown her that her military machine 
was being strained to breaking-point ; once it broke all would 
be over, and at any cost that catastrophe must be averted. She 
had seen the Allied strength in the field grow to a pitch which 
she had believed impossible ; but arguing from her own case, 
she considered that the effort had only been made at the expense 
of colossal sufferings, and that behind the Allies' resolution lay 
a profound war weariness. An offer of negotiations might, she 
thought, be welcomed by the masses in the Allied nations, and 
forced by them on their governments. Once the belligerents 
consented to treat, she believed that she had certain advantages 
in any conference. She had much to give up which she could 
not hold, and her renunciation might win her the things which 
she considered vital to her future. Moreover, if her opponents 
were entangled in discussions, there was a chance of breaking 
up their unity and shifting the argument to minor issues. Her 
peril lay in the silence of her enemies. So long as they main- 
tained their deadly concurrence on the broad principle that Ger- 
many had shattered the world's peace, and must be prevented from 
doing it again, her protestations would not move them, and her 
bluster would only steel their hearts. But once let them sit down 
to argue on ways and means, and they would beyond doubt reveal 
divergences of purpose. It was a matter of life and death to her 
that the rift should appear in the Allied lute before she had suffered 
a final catastrophe. 

Her overtures were made also with an eye to the neutral states, 
notably America. Their sufferings during the war had been grave, 
and the longer it lasted the more difficult became their position. 
They hungered for peace, and would not scrutinize Germany's 
motives with the acumen of her actual foes. It might be assumed 
that they would look at the war map, to which the Imperial 
Chancellor so often turned, with eyes more readily dazzled than 
those who had won during two years of conflict a truer sense of 
the military value of territorial conquests. They might take 
Germany's claims at their face value, and be really impressed by 



iqi6] GERMANY'S MOTIVES. 351 

her apparent magnanimity. In any case they would not be likely 
to welcome a summary bolting of the door against negotiations. 
If the Allies declined the offer, neutral opinion might force them 
to reconsider their refusal, and, if they persisted, be seriously 
alienated from them. To win the goodwill of neutrals, even if 
nothing more were gained, would be an immense advantage for 
Germany, for there lay her one hope of reconstruction. 

Finally, she was thinking of her own people. They had at 
first been buoyed up with illusory dreams of a settlement dictated 
to a conquered earth. Then, with accustomed docility, they had 
accepted the view that Germany was waging a war of self- 
defence, and fought for virtue and peace against the mailed wicked- 
ness of the world. God had been good to her, and the malice of 
her enemies had been confounded ; but, to show the cleanness of 
her soul, she was willing to forget and forgive, and to forgo her 
just revenge for the sake of a quiet life. If proof were needed that 
the guilt of beginning the war did not lie on Germany, here, surely, 
was the last word ; for, though victorious, she refused to take the 
responsibility of continuing it. The Emperor was a prince of peace 
as well as a lord of battles. 

Action which proceeds from many mixed and conflicting 
motives is likely to be a blunder. The German peace offer was 
no exception to the rule. To impress the German people, it had 
to be couched in a tone of high rhetoric and conscious superiority ; 
to win its way with neutrals, it must emphasize Germany's past 
triumphs and present magnanimity. But these arguments would 
not appeal to the Allies, who denied the assumptions, so for their 
benefit something was added in the nature of a threat. The mere 
fact that the attempt was made at all implied a confession of 
weakness, when Germany's previous record was remembered. 
The consequence was that the impression left on men's minds 
by the German overtures was one of maladroitness carried to the 
pitch of genius. Of all combinations of manner, the least likely 
to impress is a blend of truculence and sentimentality, of cajolery 
and bluster. 

The antecedents of the step may be briefly summarized. As 
early as September 19 16 the Imperial Chancellor was considering 
how President Wilson might be induced to offer mediation, if pos- 
sible before the Presidential election in the beginning of November, 
and the army chiefs, somewhat sceptically, approved the notion. 
Count Bernstorff at Washington was encouraging ; he believed 
that " peaceful money-making is the sole life and interest of the 



352 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

American." In October Baron Burian, the Austrian Premier, 
came forward with the proposal that the Teutonic League should 
itself take the first action and make a direct offer to the enemy. 
There was some private discussion about minimum terms, from 
which it appeared that Austria and Germany were well agreed 
that the concessions must be trifling. Even Bethmann-Hollweg, 
who was the most moderate, insisted upon the annexation of 
Liege and the mines of Briey, and the evacuation of French ter- 
ritory only after the payment of a war indemnity. About the end 
of the month the Emperor indited a letter to his Chancellor. Dis- 
mayed at the obstinacy of his enemies, he declared that they were 
obsessed by " war psychosis " from which they possessed no 
liberator. " Making a peace proposal," he wrote, "is an act 
necessary to deliver the world, including neutrals, from obsession. 
For such an act a ruler is wanted with a conscience, who feels 
responsible towards God, and who has a heart for his own and 
hostile peoples. A ruler is wanted who is inspired by a desire to 
deliver the world from sufferings without minding possible wrong 
interpretations of his act. I have the courage to do it. I will 
venture it, relying upon God." Hindenburg and Ludendorff con- 
curred without much enthusiasm. Their main desire was the requi- 
sitioning of the whole of Germany's man-power, and the Auxiliary 
Service Bill, which satisfied part of their demands, became law on 
2nd December. The Majority Socialists, who, under Scheidemann, 
had now all but cut loose from the Minority and become a Govern- 
ment party, were sounded, and promised their support. The fall of 
Bucharest on 6th December gave the cue for the entry of the 
peacemaker. It was unfortunate for his purpose that Nivelle 
chose the same time to inflict a signal defeat at Verdun on the 
peacemaker's all-conquering legions. 

On 1 2th December the Imperial Chancellor made a speech in 
the Reichstag, in which he announced that, by the Emperor's 
orders, he had that morning proposed to the hostile Powers to 
enter into peace negotiations, in an invitation submitted through 
the representatives of neutral states. His peroration gave the key 
to his motives, for it struck all the different notes : — 

" In August 1914 our enemies challenged the superiority of power 
in a world war. To-day we raise the question of peace, which is a 
question of humanity. We expect that the answer of our enemies 
will be given with that sereneness of mind which is guaranteed to us 
by our external and internal strength and by our clear conscience. 
If our enemies decline and wish to take upon themselves the world's 



1916] THE GERMAN PEACE NOTE. 353 

heavy burden of all those terrors which thereafter will follow, then, 
even in the least and smallest homes, every German heart will burn 
in sacred wrath against our enemies, who are unwilling to stop human 
slaughter in order that their plans of conquest and annihilation may 
continue. In a fateful hour we took a fateful decision. God will be 
judge. We can proceed upon our way without fear or resentment. 
We are ready for war and we are ready for peace." 

The Note began by emphasizing the "indestructible strength" 
of Germany and her allies. It explained that this strength was 
used only to defend their existence and the freedom of their natural 
development, and all their many victories had not changed this 
purpose. They asked for peace negotiations at which they would 
bring forward proposals " which would aim at assuring the ex- 
istence, honour, and free development of their peoples, and would 
be such as to serve as a basis for the restoration of a lasting peace." 
No hint was given of what such proposals would be. 

The document was cunningly worded as to one part of its 
purpose — to impress the people of the Fatherland. It was less 
skilful in regard to its effect upon neutrals, for it emphasized as 
facts one baseless assumption — that Germany was already the 
victor; and one falsehood — that the Allies were responsible for 
the origin of the war. A majority in the neutral world was prob- 
ably indisposed to admit the first, and was almost certainly inclined 
to deny the second. As for the Allies themselves, the net was 
spread too brazenly in their sight. An invitation to a conference 
based on such premises would, if accepted, put them wholly in a 
false position. It revealed the lines of the German argument — 
lines which admitted of no conceivable agreement. It was an 
empty offer, not specifying the terms which Germany was willing 
to accept, but leaving them to be deduced from the arrogance of 
the peacemaker's language. For the Allies to consider the thing 
for one moment would have been a waste of time in the serious 
business of war. 

The design was too obvious to deceive any but the slenderest 
and most perverse section of Allied opinion. It was promptly 
exposed in France by M. Briand, in Italy by Baron Sonnino, in 
Russia by M. Pokrovsky, and in Japan by Viscount Motono, 
the Minister for Foreign Affairs. On 30th December the French 
Government communicated to the United States Ambassador in 
Paris a formal answer, signed by Russia, France, Great Britain, 
Japan, Italy, Serbia, Belgium, Montenegro, Portugal, and Ru- 
mania. The document expounded most temperately but most 



354 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

clearly the illusory nature of Germany's proposal. There could 
be no peace without retribution, reparation, and guarantees for 
the future ; of these the German Note made no mention, and its 
truculence precluded any hope of assent to them. The overtures 
were merely an attempt to " justify in advance in the eyes of the 
world " some new series of crimes. 

" Once again the Allies declare that no peace is possible so long as 
they have not secured reparation for violated rights and liberties, 
recognition of the principle of nationalities, and of the free existence 
of small states ; so long as they have not brought about a settlement 
calculated to end, once and for all, causes which have constituted a 
perpetual menace to the nations, and to afford the only effective guaran- 
tees for the future security of the world." 

About the same time the German press took to publishing 
documents which showed that the Allies were right in their diagnosis 
of German tactics. One was the secret memorandum adopted six 
months before by the Council of the German Navy League, which, 
in sober, business-like language, laid down the minimum that 
Germany required as the result of war — a minimum which included 
the annexation of Belgium. More important still was the article 
published on New Year's Eve in the Frankfurter Zeitung by Pro- 
fessor Meinecke of Freiburg on the development of Germany's 
war plans. The historian admitted what the publicists had denied. 
Germany had entered upon a contest which only in the political 
sense could be called defensive ; from the military point of view 
it was meant to be a " knock-out " war. It had failed at the 
Marne, and the later phase, the war of attrition, had failed before 
the Somme began. She had come to the conclusion that victory 
in the full sense was impossible. She therefore favoured " the idea 
that the sacrifices demanded by the continuation of the war can 
no longer bear any relation to the military results which can still 
be expected, and that it is statesmanlike, intelligent, and wise 
to abandon the intention of destruction, which after all does not 
lead to destruction, and to seek a reasonable compromise." It 
was the truth. Having failed to destroy in the field, Germany 
sought to bargain ; but the candour of the historian gave the lie 
to the rhetoric of the Imperial Chancellor and his master. 

Close on the heels of the German overture came another Note 
of a very different kind. Mr. Wilson was now in the position 
which has been described as the most powerful enjoyed by any 
of the rulers of the world — that of an American President elected 



i 9 i6] MR. WILSON'S NOTE. 355 

for a second term of office. The nation had affirmed by a great 
majority its confidence in him, and since, by the unwritten con- 
stitutional law of the United States, a third consecutive term as 
President is inadmissible, he was free from those considerations of 
tactics which must to some extent embarrass the most independent 
of party leaders. He was now able, if he so willed, to reopen the 
question of America's neutrality, subject always to the restriction 
that as a constitutional ruler he must carry the nation along 
with him. 

The election had been fought on narrow issues. Both parties 
had talked assiduously of the necessity of defending American 
rights against violation from any quarter ; but Mr. Hughes, the 
Republican candidate, had contented himself with a general criti- 
cism of Mr. Wilson's policy towards Mexico and Germany, and had 
taken no clear line on the question of intervention. There were 
German sympathizers, as there were strong advocates of the Allies, 
in the ranks of both sides. Mr. Wilson undoubtedly received the 
bulk of his popular support because he had kept America out of 
the war. Therefore his mandate was to uphold so far as was 
possible the existing status of peace. But, at the same time, 
in his election campaign he had kept to the fore a kind of inter- 
nationalism. The policy of the " League to Enforce Peace " 
had been part of his programme, and this scheme for compulsory 
arbitration among the Powers of the world, and the re-establish- 
ment of a definite code of public right, meant really a breach with 
the traditional foreign policy of America. It was clear that, in 
Mr. Wilson's view, no nation, however powerful, could live for 
itself alone. In the speech in which he accepted his re-nomination 
he had declared : "No nation can any longer remain neutral 
as against any wilful destruction of the peace of the world. . . . 
The nations of the world must unite in joint guarantee that what- 
ever is done to disturb the whole world's life must first be tested 
in the court of the whole world's opinion before it is attempted." 
Mr. Wilson was therefore elected not merely to keep America at 
peace ; he was given a mandate for international reform ; and 
the two missions might well prove incompatible. 

When, after his victory, he looked round the horizon, he saw 
many clouds that promised storm. The darkest was the German 
submarine campaign. Germany, in spite of her pledge to Wash- 
ington, was busily engaged in those very acts which in the preceding 
April he had unsparingly condemned. He saw, moreover, that 
the lot of neutrals was rapidly becoming unendurable, and that 



356 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

with Germany in her present temper the most pacific among them 
might be forced into a war of self-defence. Accordingly, he felt 
obliged to clear up the situation by asking the belligerents to define 
their real aims. Such a step had in the main a tactical purpose. 
Elected as a peace-President, he must be able to justify himself 
fully to his people if he were forced into a course which was not 
pacific. He had formulated an international policy with general 
assent. The war aims of the belligerents must be clearly shown 
to be in accord with, or antagonistic to, that policy before the 
United States could take sides. He felt that the compulsion of 
events was forcing him in the direction of war. He wished to 
point this out to the world, for it might have a restraining and 
sobering effect on the combatants. If he failed in that aim, he 
would at least prepare the mind of America for the inevitable. 

The Note, which was presented on 18th December, had no 
relation to the German peace proposals. It was written, in part 
at any rate, before the Emperor's move, and, as we have seen, 
was a necessary consequence of Mr. Wilson's new position. Its 
construction and wording were devised with skill to serve the 
President's purpose. It stated that the published aim of both 
sets of belligerents appeared to be the same, and it defined these 
aims in a manner consonant with America's declared views. 

" Each side desires to make the rights and privileges of weak peoplea 
and small States as secure against aggression and denial in the future as 
the rights and privileges of the great and powerful States now at war. 
Each wishes itself to be made secure in the future, along with all other 
nations and peoples, against the recurrence of wars like this, and against 
oppression and selfish interference of any kind. Each would be jealous 
of the formation of any more rival leagues to preserve an uncertain 
balance of power against multiplying suspicions ; but each is ready to 
consider the formation of a League of Nations to ensure peace and 
justice throughout the world." 

It was an adroit move, for by defining the aims of the Allies, and 
crediting these aims also to the Central Powers, it brought the 
conduct of the latter — which from the first day of the war had been 
a flagrant denial of these aims — into bold relief. The Note went 
on to invite a comparison of views in detail, since on generalities 
all seemed to be in agreement. It pointed out that the pro- 
longation of the war to an aimless exhaustion would endanger the 
whole future of civilization. " The President is not proposing 
peace," so ran the conclusion ; " he is not even offering media- 
tion. He is merely proposing that soundings be taken in order 



I 9 i6] THE ALLIED ANSWER. 357 

that we may learn, the neutral nations with the belligerents, how 
near the haven of peace may be for which all mankind longs with 
an intense and increasing longing." 

The purpose of the Note was not at first detected among the 
Allied peoples. Small blame to them for their misapprehension ! 
Combatants engaged in a struggle of life and death have no time 
to appreciate the finesse of a third party who stands outside the 
fray. Mr. Wilson's definition of Germany's war aims seemed to 
most people a misreading of the plain facts of the war, and of a 
thousand printed and spoken German declarations. His request 
to the Allies to formulate in detail their proposals seemed to be 
open to the same objection which Lincoln urged against those 
who clamoured for his plan of reconstruction before the North 
had won in the field. " I have laboriously endeavoured," Lincoln 
said in 1863, " to avoid that question ever since it first began to 
be mooted, and thus to avoid confusion and disturbance in our 
own councils." The Allied Governments judged more wisely. 
They saw Mr. Wilson's purpose. They realized that he was being 
forced towards a breach with Germany, and that he must make 
certain in his own mind and the mind of his people that the cause 
for which the Allies fought was consistent with American ideals. 
Accordingly they received his Note with a true appreciation of its 
meaning, and patiently and temperately set forth their answer. 

That answer was one of the most notable documents that ever 
emanated from European chanceries. In the friendliest spirit 
it declined to set out the Allied war aims in detail, since these 
could not be formulated till the hour for negotiations arrived. 

" But the civilized world knows that they imply, necessarily and 
first of all, the restoration of Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro, with 
the compensation due to them ; the evacuation of the invaded terri- 
tories in France, in Russia, in Rumania, with just reparation ; the 
reorganization of Europe, guaranteed by a stable regime and based at 
once on respect for nationalities and on the right to full security and 
liberty of economic development possessed by all peoples, small and 
great, and at the same time upon territorial conventions and inter- 
national settlements such as to guarantee land and sea frontiers against 
unjustified attack ; the restoration of provinces formerly torn from 
the Allies by force or against the wish of their inhabitants ; the libera- 
tion of the Italians, as also of the Slavs, Rumanians, and Czecho- 
slovaks from foreign domination ; the setting free of the populations 
subject to the bloody tyranny of the Turks ; and the turning out of 
Europe of the Ottoman Empire as decidedly foreign to Western civi- 
lization." 



358 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Jan. 

The Allies associated themselves whole-heartedly with the projects 
of a League of the Nations, but pointed out that before such a 
league could come into being the present dispute must be settled. 
The malignant ill in the body-politic must be cured before a regimen 
could be adopted to ensure its future health. At the same time the 
Belgian Government submitted an answer to the American Presi- 
dent, pointing the moral from the case of their own country. " The 
barbarous manner in which the German Government has treated 
and still treats the Belgian nation does not allow us to presume 
that Germany will trouble in the future about guaranteeing the 
rights of weak nations which she has never ceased to trample under- 
foot since the moment when the war, let loose by her, began to 
decimate Europe." 

The American Note met with no response from Germany. 
Chagrined by her failure to produce dissension among the Allies, 
and profoundly embarrassed by President Wilson's overtures, 
she contented herself with an angry declaration to neutrals, a 
mixture of bad logic and bad history, and a string of denials of 
what she had in her palmier days admitted and gloried in. This 
came on January n, 1917, and the next day the Emperor issued 
a proclamation to make certain that his tactics, if they had failed 
with the enemy, should at least have some success with the 
German people. 

" Our enemies have dropped the mask. After refusing with scorn 
and hypocritical words of love for peace and humanity our honest 
peace offer, they now, in their reply to the United States, have gone 
beyond that and admitted their lust for conquest, the baseness of which 
is further enhanced by their calumnious assertions. Their aim is the 
crushing of Germany, the dismemberment of the Powers allied to us, 
and the enslavement of the freedom of Europe and the seas under the 
same yoke that Greece, with gnashing teeth, is now enduring. . . . 
Burning indignation and holy wrath will redouble the strength of every 
German man and woman, whether it is devoted to fighting, work, or 
suffering." 

The sympathetic reception of the Allied reply in America 
proved that the President had read aright the temper of his people, 
and that the Allied Governments had been correct in their inter- 
pretation of the meaning of his message. Britain and the United 
States were alike in one thing— both had regarded themselves in 
old days as extra-European Powers. But the logic of circumstances 
had brought one into the family of Europe, and the same force 
seemed about to bring the other into a fellowship which was not 



1917] MR. WILSON'S CONDITIONS. 359 

of Europe alone, but of the civilized world. On January 22, 1917, 
the President, deeming that the words of his Note needed ampli- 
fication, delivered a remarkable address to the Senate, in which 
he unfolded his programme for a League of Peace. Such a league 
could only come into being after the present war was over, and 
on the nature of the settlement depended America's support to 
guarantee the future. He outlined the terms which he would 
consider a satisfactory foundation for the new world. It must 
be a peace without victory— that is, a peace not dictated by a 
victor to a loser, leaving a heritage of resentment. It must be 
founded on the recognition of the equal rights of all States, great 
and small. It must be based on the principle that a people was 
not a chattel to hand from one sovereignty to another, but that 
governments only derived that power from the consent of the 
governed. It must assure, as far as possible, a direct outlet for 
every great people to the highways of the sea. The ocean must 
be free in practically all circumstances for the use of mankind, 
and armaments, both military and naval, must be limited. 

From no one of these conditions were the Allies disposed to 
dissent. By " peace without victory " it was clear from the 
context that Mr. Wilson meant peace without that destruction 
and dismemberment of Germany which the Allies had expressly 
repudiated. In another sense there could be no peace without 
victory — victory over the mad absolutism and military pride of 
the Central Powers. Unless that were crushed to the earth, no 
sanctions, no guarantees, no system of treaties, no rectification of 
frontiers, no League of Peace, would endure for a decade ; for it 
had long ago proclaimed itself above international law and a flouter 
of all rights, however sacred. If it were decisively beaten, the 
terms of peace mattered less, for the secular enemy of all peace 
would have disappeared. Victory, the right kind of victory, was, 
on Mr. Wilson's own argument, the essential preliminary of any 
lasting settlement. 

There come moments in the middle of any great toil when it 
is desirable for the good of the toiler's soul that he straighten his 
back and look round. Respice finem is the best traveller's maxim. 
Without a constant remembrance of the goal the pilgrim may 
find the rough places impassable, and will be prone to stray from 
the road. The value of Mr. Wilson's intervention was that it 
caused the Allies to reflect upon the deeper purpose of the war. 
It emphasized the essential idealism of their cause, which had 
become dim in many minds from that preoccupation with detail 



360 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Jan. 

which a desperate contest induces. It was well that it should be 
so, for events were in train in Russia and in America itself which 
were to change the whole complexion of the struggle, and set the 
ideal aspect foremost in the eye of the world. For the remainder 
of the war the question of ultimate aims was to be canvassed 
unceasingly, and every Ally had to examine herself and discover 
her soul in the quest for a common denominator of purpose. 

Germany, too, discovered herself, and that speedily. The 
" terrors " which the Imperial Chancellor had proclaimed in his 
speech of 12th December were at once put into motion. In the 
previous August Hindenburg and Ludendorff had opposed un- 
restricted submarine warfare on the ground that the time was not 
ripe for it. They changed their views after the Rumanian victory, 
when it became certain that no European neutral was likely to 
enter the lists against them. The price, as they frankly recognized, 
was war with the United States, but they calculated that America 
could not put in the field more than five or six divisions during the 
first year, and they were clear that the campaign would have a 
decisive effect long before America could send armies on the grand 
scale. They had small hope of results from the peace offer, but 
they consented to postpone a decision until it had been given a 
fair trial. On 23rd December Hindenburg told the Chancellor 
that in his view unrestricted submarine warfare was now essential 
in view of Germany's dangerous economic and military position, 
and at the conference on January 9, 1917, the Emperor and the 
Chancellor accepted the view. The decision was, strangely enough, 
combined with the drafting, on 29th January, of Germany's peace 
terms for dispatch to Mr. Wilson. These included the renunciation 
of the part of upper Alsace then occupied by France, the return of 
the German colonies, a strategic rectification of the French and 
Russian frontiers, and the restoration of Belgium subject to 
guarantees. But this peace overture was obscured by the momen- 
tous declaration of the new submarine policy. For, on 31st January, 
the German Government announced that from 1st February all 
sea traffic within certain zones adjoining Britain, France, and 
Italy, and in the Eastern Mediterranean, would, " without further 
notice, be prevented by all weapons." This meant that German 
submarines would sink at sight within these areas all vessels, 
whether neutral or belligerent. The causes alleged were the ille- 
gality of the Allied blockade, and the Allied rejection of Germany's 
peace offer. But Bethmann-Hollweg in the Reichstag set forth 



1917] UNRESTRICTED SUBMARINE WARFARE. 361 

another reason. He had always been in favour, he said, of ruthless 
methods of submarine warfare, if they were best calculated to 
lead to a swift victory. " Last autumn the time was not yet 
ripe, but to-day the moment has come when with the greatest 
prospect of success we can undertake this enterprise. We must, 
therefore, delay no longer." The Imperial Chancellor was a 
maladroit diplomat, who occasionally blundered into speaking the 
truth. 



CHAPTER LXXI. 

THE CLEARING OF SINAI AND THE FALL OF BAGDAD. 
August 9, 1916-M arch II, 1917. 

Position of Turkey — The Sinai Desert crossed — Actions of Magdhaba and Rafa — 
End of Senussi Campaign— Sir Stanley Maude — His Capture of Kut — Fall of 
Bagdad. 

We left the story of the war against Turkey at the point when, 
in August 1916, Sir Archibald Murray's forces in Egypt had suc- 
cessfully repelled the Turkish offensive at Romani, while Sir Stanley 
Maude's Army of Mesopotamia was slowly perfecting its prepara- 
tions for the recovery of Kut. Yudenitch in the Caucasus, with 
Erzerum, Trebizond, and Erzhingian in his possession, was de- 
taining at least half of Turkey's total fighting strength, and Baratov 
with his small column was hanging somewhat precariously on the 
western borders of Persia. For the moment Turkey was safe, but 
her security was not solidly founded. She owed it rather to her 
opponent's mistakes than to her own inherent strength. Her fifty 
odd divisions were widely scattered — half against Yudenitch, five 
or six in Galicia and the Dobrudja, three on the Tigris, five in Syria, 
and detachments on the Persian frontier, at Gallipoli, and on the 
Struma. If her enemies could combine, if Maude and Yudenitch 
could join hands, and Murray press northward through Syria, 
there was a chance of that decisive defeat in the field which would 
put her out of action. The Allies had blundered grievously ; but 
they had learned much, and they had great assets. They had in 
Egypt an ideal offensive base, the advantages of which were only 
now being realized, and they had against them an enemy whose 
military strength had been heavily depleted by costly actions and 
weakened by every kind of internal distraction and misgovern- 
ment. 

The distinction between the Western and Eastern schools of 
strategy among the Allies was largely fictitious. No sane men 

362 



igi6] THE TURKISH CHARACTER. 3^3 

denied the necessity of making the chief effort on the Western 
front, and few but admitted that victory was no less necessary in 
the East. Germany must be beaten in the theatre where her main 
forces were engaged, but it was not less important to cut her off 
from the Eastern extension on which for a generation she had set 
her heart. Turkey, it was clear, must be brought to such a pass in 
the field that she would have to submit to the drastic terms of the 
Allies. Her policy had been thoroughly Germanized. She had flung 
off all her old treaty obligations and claimed the status of one of the 
Great Powers of Europe.* She had lost most of her shadowy 
hegemony over Islam, for the Grand Sherif of Mecca, who at the 
close of 1916 assumed the title of King of the Hedjaz, had called 
the faithful to witness that the so-called Khalifs of Constantinople 
had at all times been puppets in the hands of some kind of janissary, 
and that the new janissaries from Prussia were conspicuously 
unsuited to be the guardians of the mysteries of the Faith. Turkey 
had thrown down a challenge which could only be answered by 
her destruction as an empire and as a suzerain Power. 

There was every military reason for an energetic campaign 
against her, for her immobilization would have immediate effects 
upon that Achilles heel of Prussianism, its Austrian and Bulgarian 
allies. The political reasons were even stronger, for no war of 
liberation could suffer the anomaly of the Near East to go uni- 
formed. The Turk had been so long the nominal ally of Britain 
that many had come to regard him with an affectionate toleration, 
as a man regards the occasional misdeeds of a faithful and spirited 
dog. That the Turkish peasant was brave, hardy, and uncom- 
plaining was beyond doubt ; that a considerable section of the 
old Turkish gentry had good manners, a picturesque air, and certain 
virtues not too common in the modern world, might be maintained 
with reason ; but no sentimentalism could change the fact that 
the Turk and his kind had nowhere shown a trace of administrative 
genius or civic spirit, and that wherever he had set his foot he had 
blasted the land. His race was like the wind from the desert, 
which scorches and never fructifies or blesses. Turkey was a military 
Power, competent only when in the saddle, with the sword drawn ; 
she had no gifts for the arts of peace, and no power to rebuild 
when she had broken down. Her history was, in the words of the 
Allied statement of war aims to President Wilson, a " bloody 

* On January I, 1917, she finally denounced the Treaty of Paris of 1856, and the 
Treaty of Berlin of 1878, and at the same time abolished the autonomous organization 
of the Lebanon province. 



364 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Oct.-Nov. 

tyranny." The old Turk was a blunderer with certain redeeming 
qualities ; the new Turk was no less a blunderer, but he had lost 
the qualities and adopted with easy grace the worst vices of his 
Prussian masters, whose creed was terribly akin to the root charac- 
teristics of his tribe. 

Turkey's dominion embraced the ruins of the richest and most 
enlightened lands of the ancient world, the cradle of civilization and 
of the Christian faith. The old proud empires from New Rome to 
Bagdad were not destroyed by Islam. The rich Ommayad culture 
and Bagdad under the Caliphs were the achievement of the eldest 
sons of Islam, the Arabs, who gave light and leading to all North 
Africa and one-third of Asia. They were destroyed by the Turk. 
Under his kindly rule Bagdad became a city of hovels, and Mesopo- 
tamia a swamp and a sand dune. Persecutions, over-taxation, 
corruption, and incompetence characterized all the centuries of his 
regime. Since the war began he had shown his natural instincts by 
causing the death of the better part of a million Armenians, and, 
partly from fecklessness and partly from malice, letting half the 
population of the Lebanon die of famine. The world had been very 
patient with him, but the cup of his offences now overflowed. So 
monstrous an anachronism as the Turkish Empire must be removed 
from the family of the nations, and the Turk must return to the 
part for which he had always been destined — that of the ruler of a 
tribal province. 

Through the autumn months of 1916 Sir Archibald Murray 
was engaged in pushing the new railway eastward from Kantara 
across the Sinai desert. This kind of warfare was much the same 
as the old Sudan campaigns. The condition was that before each 
move large quantities of supplies had to be collected at an advanced 
base. An action was then fought to clear the front, and after it 
came a pause while the railway was carried forward and a new 
reserve of supplies accumulated. The task was harder than in the 
Sudan, for there was no river to give water. In that thirsty land, 
after the Katia basin was left behind, water was almost non-existent, 
and supplies had to be brought by rail in tank trucks till a pipe 
line could be laid. The work entailed was very great, but the 
organization of camel transport gradually bridged the gap between 
the railhead and the front. The soldiers in the French and Flanders 
trenches were inclined to look upon the Egyptian campaign as the 
longed-for war of movement. Movement there was, but it was less 
the movement of cavalry riding for an objective than the slow prog- 



i 9 16] THE CROSSING OF SINAI. 365 

ress of engineers daily completing a small section of line in the sun- 
baked sand. Sir Archibald Murray has described the situation :— 

" The main factor — without which all liberty of action and any 
tactical victory would have been nugatory — was work, intense and 
unremitting. To regain the peninsula, the true frontier of Egypt, 
hundreds of miles of water piping had been laid ; filters capable of 
supplying 1,500,000 gallons of water a day, and reservoirs, had been 
installed ; and tons of stone transported from distant quarries. Kan- 
tara had been transformed from a small canal village into an important 
railway and water terminus, with wharves and cranes and a railway 
ferry ; and the desert, till then almost destitute of human habitation, 
showed the successive marks of our advance in the shape of strong 
positions firmly entrenched and protected by hundreds of miles of 
barbed wire, of standing camps where troops could shelter in com- 
fortable huts, of tanks and reservoirs, of railway stations and sidings, 
of aerodromes and of signal stations and wireless installations — by all 
of which the desert was subdued and made habitable, and adequate 
lines of communication established between the advancing troops and 
their ever-receding base. Moreover, not only had British troops 
laboured incessantly during the summer and autumn, but the body of 
organized native labour had grown. The necessity of combining the 
protection and maintenance, including the important work of sani- 
tation, of this large force of workers, British and native, with that 
progress on the railway roads and pipes which was vital to the success 
of any operation, put the severest strain upon all energies and resources. 
But the problem of feeding the workers without starving the work 
was solved by the goodwill and energy of all concerned." 

The headquarters of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force under 
Sir Archibald Murray were now at Cairo, and the Eastern Force, 
with headquarters at Ismailia, was under Lieutenant-General Sir 
Charles Dobell, the conqueror of the Cameroons. Of this the spear- 
head was the Desert Column, consisting mainly of Australian, New 
Zealand, and British mounted troops and the Camel Corps, now 
under Lieutenant-General Sir Philip Chetwode, who had commanded 
the 2nd Cavalry Division on the French front. The immediate 
objective was El Arish, and during October and November much 
bombing work was done by the Royal Flying Corps, and there 
were various brilliant little cavalry reconnaissances. Between 
13th and 17th October, for example, the enemy position on the 
steep hills at Maghara, sixty-five miles east of Ismailia, was suc- 
cessfully reconnoitred after two difficult night marches. Meantime 
the railway was creeping on. At the end of October it was four 
miles east of Bir el Abd, and by 26th November it had reached 
Mazar. The enemy's advanced position in front of El Arish and 



366 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

Masaid covered all the water in the area, and it was necessary to 
accumulate large supplies at railhead in case the operation of dis- 
lodging him should prove a slow one. 

By 20th December we were ready to strike, but the Turks did 
not await us. On the night of 19th December they evacuated the 
positions which they had so elaborately fortified. Their retreat was 
discovered by our airmen, and on the night of the 20th Australian 
and New Zealand mounted troops, supported by the Imperial Camel 
Corps, marched twenty miles, and reached El Arish at sunrise to 
find it empty. The Turkish garrison of 1,600 men had fallen back 
upon Magdhaba. Scottish troops entered El Arish some hours 
later, and the frontier town which for two years had been in the 
enemy's hands was now restored to Egypt. Mine-sweeping opera- 
tions were at once begun in the roadstead, a pier was built, and by 
the 24th supply ships from Port Said had begun unloading stores. 
We had won the necessary advanced base for the coming major 
operations. 

The next step was to " round up " the retreating garrison. 
At 12.45 a.m. on the morning of 23rd December a flying column 
took the road under Chauvel, and found the enemy at Magdhaba, 
twenty miles to the south-south-east, in a strong position on both 
banks of the Wadi el Arish. Then followed a very perfect little 
action. The Australian Light Horse and the New Zealand Mounted 
Rifles moved east of Magdhaba against the enemy's right flank 
and rear, while the Imperial Camel Corps attacked in front. The 
reserves, in order to prevent escape, swung round from the north- 
west. Shortly after noon the Turkish position was completely 
surrounded. The mirage, however, impeded the work of the horse- 
artillery batteries, and the entire absence of water made it clear 
that unless Magdhaba was carried soon the troops would have to 
be withdrawn. Chauvel, accordingly, was given orders to press 
the attack, and by four o'clock, after a bayonet charge by a Light 
Horse regiment, the place was won. Our casualties were twelve 
officers and 134 other ranks killed and wounded ; we took 1,282 
prisoners, four mountain guns, one machine gun, and over one 
thousand rifles. 

Our airplanes reported that the enemy had entrenched himself 
at Magruntein, near Rafa, thirty miles north-east of El Arish; 
but Dobell had to wait for supplies before he could strike a fresh 
blow. The new position was a formidable one, made up of a cen- 
tral keep surrounded by three strong series of works connected by 
trenches, with an open glacis in front of them. The Desert Column, 



1916] MAGDHABA AND RAFA. 367 

under Sir Philip Chetwode, consisting of Australian and New Zea- 
land Mounted Troops, British Yeomanry, and the Imperial Camel 
Corps, left El Arish on the evening of January 8, 1917, and at dawn 
on the 9th had surrounded the enemy. As at Magdhaba, the Aus- 
tralians and New Zealanders attacked on the right from the east, 
while the Camel Corps moved against the front. By 11 a.m. Rafa 
was taken, and by 4.45 p.m. the New Zealanders had captured 
the main redoubt. By 5.30 p.m. the action, which had lasted ten 
hours, was over, and a relieving enemy column, coming from Shellal, 
had been driven back. Our casualties were only 487 in all, and 
from the enemy we took 1,600 unwounded prisoners, six machine 
guns, four mountain guns, and a quantity of transport. 

The actions of Magdhaba and Rafa were models of desert cam- 
paigning, and showed the perfect co-operation of all arms. They 
were battles of the old type, where mobility and tactical boldness 
carried the day, and where from a neighbouring height every inci- 
dent of the fight could be followed. The result was the clearing 
of the Sinai desert of all formed bodies of Turkish troops. Opera- 
tions in the interior and the south, conducted by small flying 
columns of cavalry and camelry, had kept pace with the greater 
movement in the north. The British troops were now beyond 
the desert, on the edge of habitable country. The next objective 
was the Gaza-Beersheba line — the gateway to Syria. 

During the last month of 1916 the western borders of Egypt 
were comparatively peaceful. The last flickering of rebellion was 
stamped out in Darfur in November, when the ex-sultan, Ali Dinar, 
was killed. The Baharia and Dakhla oases had been occupied 
without trouble, and our chief business on that frontier was that 
of police patrols and an occasional reconnaissance. But during 
January news came that Sidi Ahmed, the Grand Senussi, with his 
commander-in-chief, Mahommed Saleh, and a force of 1,200, was 
preparing to leave the Siwa oasis and return to Jaghbub. Major- 
General Watson, commanding the Western Force, was ordered 
to advance on the Siwa and Girba oases, with the object of cap- 
turing the Grand Senussi and scattering his following. But to 
conduct any considerable force over the 200 waterless miles be- 
tween Mersa Matruh and Siwa would have taken at least a month's 
preparation, so the task was entrusted to a column of armoured 
motor cars. The plan was for the main body to attack the enemy 
camp at Girba, while a detachment should hold the Munasib Pass — 
the only pass between Siwa and Jaghbub practicable for camels 
— and so deflect Sidi Ahmed's flight into the waterless desert. 



368 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Nov. 

On 3rd February the main enemy camp at Girba was attacked. 
Sal eh resisted strongly all day, while Sidi Ahmed made off west- 
ward. At dawn on the 4th, Saleh too was in flight, and on the 
5th, Siwa was entered without opposition. Meantime the Munasib 
detachment had occupied the pass and ambushed a party of the 
enemy. Sidi Ahmed was therefore forced to abandon his natural 
route of retreat, and with his commander-in-chief make the best 
of a bad road to his distant sanctuary. The expedition, in the 
words of Sir Archibald Murray's dispatch, " dealt a rude blow 
to the moral of the Senussi, left the Grand Senussi himself painfully 
making his way to Jaghbub through the rugged and waterless dunes, 
and freed my western front from the menace of his forces." 

In August Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Maude, who had 
commanded the 13th Division, had succeeded Sir Percy Lake in 
command of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force. The worst 
troubles of that army were now over. Hospital arrangements 
had been perfected, river transport had been reorganized, railway 
communications had been completed, and all the work behind the 
front, without which an advance of troops cannot be made, had 
reached a state of efficiency very different from the confusion of 
the early days. General Maude had before him an intricate strate- 
gical problem. His area of command stretched from the banks 
of the Euphrates to the walls of Ispahan, and it seemed as if the 
enemy aimed at containing the British on the Tigris, while attack- 
ing towards Nasiriyeh on the Euphrates in the west, and in the east 
waging a campaign through Persia against the safety of India. 
In these circumstances, the British Commander-in-Chief decided 
rightly that " to disseminate our troops in order to safeguard the 
various conflicting interests involved would have relegated us to a 
passive defensive everywhere." The true policy was to strike at 
the enemy's main centre, Bagdad, for a successful advance up the 
Tigris would relieve the pressure in Persia and on the Euphrates. 
Movement was, of course, impossible during the summer. The 
intense heat had tried the health of men who had already behind 
them an incredible record of desert warfare. The cooler days of 
the early autumn were employed in improving the training of all 
arms, accumulating supplies at the front, and bringing forward 
drafts for the different units. By the end of November the time 
was ripe for an advance. The battalions were up to strength and 
in good health and spirits, and the concentration on the river up- 
stream from Sheikh Saad was completed. 



igi6] MAUDE BEGINS HIS ADVANCE. 369 

We have seen in an earlier chapter that after the fall of Kut 
we had considerably advanced our lines before the advent of the 
Mesopotamian summer put an end to campaigning. In the begin- 
ning of December the Turkish front before Kut lay as follows : — 
On the left bank of the Tigris, fifteen miles from the town, they 
still held the Sanna-i-yat position — now much elaborated and 
strengthened — between the Suwaicha marsh and the river, and 
all the hinterland as far as Kut was covered with a series of reserve 
lines. On the right bank their front ran from a point on the Tigris 
three miles north-east of Kut, across the big loop which is called 
the Khadairi Bend, to the Shatt-el-Hai two miles below where it 
leaves the main river. There it crossed the Hai and ran north- 
west to the Shumran Bend of the Tigris. There was a pontoon 
bridge across the Hai close to its point of exit from the main river, 
and another across the Tigris at Shumran. Further, the enemy 
held the Hai itself for several miles below the bridgehead. Every- 
where he had strong trench systems and wire entanglements. On 
the left bank we were within 120 yards of him at Sanna-i-yat ; 
on the right bank our contact was less close, our advanced posts 
being about two miles from the Khadairi Bend and five miles from 
the Hai position. 

The strategical situation was, on the whole, favourable for 
Maude. The enemy's lines on the right bank of the Tigris were a 
dozen miles upstream from those on the left bank. His communi- 
cations were therefore, in the technical phrase, in prolongation 
of his battle front. If we carried the line of the Hai, we should 
be in a position to threaten seriously the communications of the 
Sanna-i-yat lines. On the other hand, our own situation was 
reasonably safe. The waterless desert made any flanking move- 
ment against us from the Hai precarious, and the Suwaicha marsh, 
if it protected the Turkish left flank, also secured our right. Again, 
the long front gave us many opportunities for feints to cover our 
real purpose. Maude's plan was simple and sound. His first 
object was to carry the Hai line, and then gradually to drive the 
enemy from the right bank of the river. If he succeeded in this, 
he would be able by constant attacks to make him nervous about 
his communications. Then a great effort could be made to force 
the Sanna-i-yat position, which would mean the fall of Kut. But 
even if this operation proved too difficult, it might be possible, 
when the enemy was sufficiently weakened and distracted, to cross 
the Tigris west of Kut and cut his communications. As we shall 
see, Maude succeeded in each item of his plan. 



370 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Jan. 

By 12th December our concentration was complete, and our 
troops in a position for attack. The British striking force was 
divided into two parts. That on the right, under Lieutenant- 
General A. S. Cobbe, V.C., was devoted to holding the enemy on 
the left bank of the river to the Sanna-i-yat position, and watching 
the right bank up to the Khadairi Bend ; while that on the left, 
under Lieutenant-General W. R. Marshall (which included the 
cavalry), was by a surprise march to win a position on the Hai. 
All through the 13th Cobbe bombarded Sanna-i-yat as if about to 
attack there, and that night Marshall moved westward against 
the Hai. The enemy was taken by surprise, and without much 
difficulty we crossed at Atab and Basrugiyeh, about eight miles 
from Kut, clearing the ground on the western bank to the depth 
of over a mile. We then swung northward along both banks to 
a point some two and a half miles from Kut. Two pontoon bridges 
were constructed at Atab. During the next two days we pressed 
steadily forward, while our aircraft bombed the Turkish bridge of 
boats at Shumran, and compelled the enemy to remove it to the 
west side of the bend. The Turkish bridgehead at the exit of the 
Hai was now under a continuous bombardment. On the 18th we 
succeeded in reaching the river between the Khadairi Bend and 
Kut, thereby severing the Turkish lateral communications on the 
right bank. This left the Turkish force in the Bend cut off on 
left and right, and sustained only by their connection with the 
enemy left flank across the river. 

On 26th December the weather broke, and the rains fell steadily 
for a fortnight. The stream rose and spread over the countryside, 
so that our single-line railway, now extended to Atab, was worked 
with difficulty, and cavalry reconnaissances were hampered by 
the lagoons and sodden ground. Nevertheless, during the first 
weeks of 19 17, we kept up a steady bombardment, and especially 
made the Turkish bridgehead at Shumran a precarious lodgment. 
An attempt by us on 20th January to bridge the Tigris four miles 
west of Shumran was anticipated by the enemy, and had to be 
abandoned. But the chief work of these days was the clearing 
of the Khadairi Bend. Our hold on the Hai had given us real 
advantages, the chief of which were that we were in a position to 
threaten constantly the Turkish communications west of Shumran ; 
that we had removed the danger of any attack on Nasiriyeh, on 
the Euphrates ; and that we had cut off the enemy's supplies from 
the rich country of the middle Hai. We had reached the banks 
of the Tigris south-east of Kut, but between that point and Magasis 



1917] OPERATIONS ON RIGHT BANK OF TIGRIS. 371 

the Turks still held the right bank, and could in flood-time open 
the " bunds " and swamp part of our front. Obviously, before 
we could advance we must clear this Khadairi Bend, which would 
give us the mastery of the whole right bank from Kut downwards. 
The task was entrusted to Cobbe, who, beginning operations on 
5th January, succeeded by the 19th in effecting his purpose. The 
ground was flat and bare, and exposed on both flanks to fire at 
close range from across the river. Hence many thousand yards 
of new trenches and covered approaches had to be dug in drench- 
ing rain and under continuous fire. The successive Turkish lines 
were carried by severe hand-to-hand fighting, which did much to 
weaken the enemy moral. 

Meantime Marshall was busy winning the last fragment of the 
Hai line, that corner close to the Tigris where the Turks held a 
strongly entrenched salient astride the lesser stream. It took him 
thirteen days to get into position for the attack ; but on 24th Janu- 
ary his trenches were within 400 yards of the enemy front. Next 
day he carried the Turkish first line on a breadth of more than a 
mile, and his right wing also broke through the second line, thanks 
to the clearing of the Khadairi Bend. His left wing, on the western 
bank of the Hai, had a more difficult task ; for it was exposed to 
heavy enfilading fire, and had the enemy in strength against it. 
At first it, too, won the Turkish second line, but after four attacks 
it was compelled to retire. Next morning two Punjabi battalions 
finally carried the ground, and by the 28th we held two miles of 
the position to a depth of from 300 to 700 yards. On 1st February 
our right won the enemy third line ; but a similar gain on our left 
could not be held against the Turkish counter-attack, supported 
by enfilading fire. Next day Marshall extended his left towards 
the Tigris, with a view to operating presently against the Dahra 
Bend — the loop of the river between Kut and the Shumran penin- 
sula. On the 4th the whole of the left bank of the Hai was ours, 
and the Turks fell back to the Liquorice Factory, in the western 
angle between the Hai and the Tigris, and a line across the Dahra 
Bend. 

The enemy's hold on the right bank of the Tigris was now rapidly 
weakening, and the next step was to clear the Dahra Bend. The 
Liquorice Factory was kept under constant bombardment, for it 
was a nest of machine guns, and on the 9th ground was won in the 
enemy's centre, while on the left we pushed our front to within 
2,500 yards of the south end of the Shumran Bend. On the 10th 
there was a general forward movement, in spite of a high wind 



372 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Feb. 

and a dust storm, and the Turks were compelled to evacuate the 
Liquorice Factory, and withdraw to a new line two and a half 
miles long well inside the Dahra Bend. Next day we reached the 
Tigris, south-east of the Shumran Bend, and so enclosed the enemy. 
Marshall resolved to attack the Turkish right centre, and several 
days were occupied with driving the enemy from advanced posts 
and constructing trenches and approaches for the coming assault. 
On the 15th we feinted hard against the Turkish left, and this 
enabled us to carry the enemy's right centre on a broad front, 
since our barrage prevented him from transferring thither the 
men he had used to strengthen his left. Presently his left centre 
was carried by Scottish and Indian troops, who pushed north- 
eastward towards the Tigris, isolated the Turkish left, and took 
1,000 prisoners. The enemy fell back across the river, leaving 
some 2,000 prisoners behind him, and by the morning of the 16th 
the Dahra Bend was wholly in our hands. " Thus terminated," 
wrote Maude, " a phase of severe fighting, brilliantly carried out. 
To eject the enemy from that horseshoe bend, bristling with trenches 
and commanded from across the river on three sides by hostile 
batteries and machine guns, called for offensive qualities of a high 
standard on the part of the troops." 

Maude had carried out the main preliminaries of his plan. He 
had won all the right bank of the Tigris in the vicinity of Kut. 
Khalil's line now ran east and west from Sanna-i-yat to Shumran, 
with his left wing bent at right angles between the Suwaicha 
marsh and the river. It was geographically a strong defensive 
position, for it was protected throughout almost its whole length 
by the Tigris. But it had one weak point — at Shumran, where 
the enemy's battle front and his line of communications met — 
and his fears for this point had compelled him to weaken other 
parts of his front. The moment had come for the British to cross 
the river, and the proper crossing place must be as far as possible 
to the west. If the crossing was to succeed, the forces at Sanna-i- 
yat must be kept closely engaged, and activities maintained along 
the whole river line. We hoped to enter by the back door, but 
if that was to be forced open it was necessary to knock violently at 
the front door to distract the occupants. 

On 17th February Cobbe attacked at Sanna-i-yat over sodden 
ground, for during the last few days the rain had fallen heavily. 
His attack was a surprise, and with little loss he carried the first 
and second lines on a frontage of 400 yards. Enemy counter- 
attacks, however, drove him back to his own lines before the even- 



i 9 i6] THE RIVER CROSSED. 373 

ing. Then came a pause, while preparations were being made 
for the Shumran crossing, approaches being constructed and guns 
moved under cover of night, and the crews of the pontoons trained 
for their duties. On the 22nd, part of Cobbe's forces again at- 
'acked at Sanna-i-yat, and after a day's hard fighting secured the 
lirst two enemy trench lines. That night we made a feint as if 
to cross at Kut and Magasis, and during the daylight we had al- 
lowed our preparations to be furtively observed, so that the enemy 
moved troops and guns to the Kut peninsula. On the 23rd came the 
real attempt. The place selected for the purpose was the south 
end of the Shumran Bend, and three ferries were provided im- 
mediately downstream. Just before dawn the work of the ferries 
began. The lower ferries came immediately under such a furious 
machine-gun fire that they had to be closed, though not until a 
gallant company of Gurkhas had reached the farther bank. But 
the troops using the uppermost ferry crossed with ease and took 
five machine guns and 300 prisoners. By 7.30 a.m. three com- 
panies of Norfolks and 150 Gurkhas were across, and the work 
of building the bridge began. The Turkish guns were engaged 
by ours, and the Norfolks and Gurkhas, pressing inland and along 
the bank, were soon a mile north of the bridgehead. At 4.30 p.m. 
the bridge was open for traffic. " By nightfall, as a result of the 
day's operations, our troops had, by their unconquerable valour 
and determination, forced a passage across a river in flood, 340 
yards wide, in face of strong opposition, and had secured a position 
2,000 yards in depth, covering the bridgehead ; while ahead of this 
line our patrols were acting vigorously against the enemy's advanced 
detachments, who had suffered heavy losses, including about 700 
prisoners taken in all. The infantry of one division was across, and 
another division was ready to follow." It was a crossing worthy 
to rank with the passage of the Aisne in September 1914 ; for if the 
Turkish strength was less formidable than the German, the swollen 
Tigris was a far greater barrier than the sluggish French stream. 

That same day Cobbe, at Sanna-i-yat, had won the third, 
fourth, and fifth lines, and was busy making roads for his guns 
and transport across the tangle of ruined trenches. On the 24th 
Marshall advanced in the Shumran Bend, fighting hard in the 
north-east corner, where a series of nullahs were honeycombed 
with machine-gun emplacements. That night the enemy, stoutly 
resisting, had been forced back 1,000 yards. Another division 
had crossed the bridge, and the cavalry, too, were over, and striv- 
ing to break out from the peninsula to cut off Khalil's retreat 



374 A HISTORY OK THE GREAT WAR. [March 

towards Bagdad. Our airplanes reported that every road was 
thronged with retiring troops, but the Turkish rearguards made 
a good defence, and our horsemen did not emerge from the pen- 
insula till too late for a grand coup. That day Cobbe carried the 
enemy's sixth line at Sanna-i-yat, and marched on the Nakhailat 
and Suwada positions, only to find them empty. The iron fort- 
ress, which had defied all our efforts in the early months of 
1916, had yielded to the resolute assault of our infantry, supported 
by the distraction at Shumran. Cobbe entered Kut unopposed, 
and the gunboats came upstream from Falahiyeh, and anchored off 
the town where exactly ten months before the Julnar had failed to 
run the blockade and bring food to Townshend's famished remnant. 

Meantime Marshall's forces and the cavalry were hot upon 
Khalil's track. Eight miles from Shumran the Turks attempted 
a stand, but were driven in with a loss of 400 prisoners. The 
cavalry on our right endeavoured to get round the Turkish flank, 
but were held up by entrenched infantry and the frequent marshes. 
The pursuit was in two columns — one following the river, and the 
other striking across country in the hope of intercepting the enemy 
rearguards. But the Turkish retreat was well handled, and the 
bulk of their forces were too quick for us. Our gunboat flotilla 
had better luck, for it sunk or took most of the enemy's craft. 
Among its captures were the Firefly, the Sumana, and the Pioneer, 
vessels which we had lost in the preceding campaign. By 28th 
February Marshall had arrived at Aziziyeh, halfway to Bagdad, 
where he halted to reorganize his communications, while Cobbe's 
forces closed to the front. Since the crossing of the Tigris we 
had taken 4,000 prisoners, of whom 188 were officers, 39 guns, 
22 trench mortars, 11 machine guns, besides vast quantities of 
other material. 

On 5 th March the advance was renewed. Marshall marched 
eighteen miles to Zeur, while the cavalry pushed on seven miles 
further to Laj, and had a successful brush in a dust storm with 
a Turkish rearguard, during which a Hussar regiment galloped 
straight through the enemy trenches. Next day the Ctesiphon 
position was passed ; it was found to be strongly entrenched 
but empty, and the cavalry got within three miles of the river 
Diala, which enters the Tigris from the east eight miles below 
Bagdad. Next day, 7th March, our advanced front was in contact 
with the enemy along that river line. 

Here it was clear the Turks proposed to attempt a stand. 
After sunset on the night of the 7th, when we launched our first 



i 9 i6] CAPTURE OF BAGDAD. 375 

pontoon, it was greeted by heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, and 
four later pontoons met the same fate. A small column from 
Marshall's force was ferried across the Tigris in order to enfilade 
the Diala position, and during the night of the 8th four attempts 
were made to cross the Diala. One partially succeeded, and 
seventy men of the North Lancashires established a post in a loop 
of the river, and held it gallantly for twenty-four hours. At 4 a.m. 
on the morning of the 10th Marshall attacked again at two points 
a mile apart, and by 7 a.m. the East Lancashires and the Wiltshires 
had crossed and joined the North Lancashires. A bridge was 
constructed by noon, the riverside villages were cleared, and some 
hundreds of prisoners were taken. That night we were in touch 
with the enemy's last position covering Bagdad from the south- 
east along the ridge called Tel Muhammad. 

Meantime, on the 8th, a bridge had been thrown across the 
Tigris below the Diala mouth, and the cavalry and part of Cobbe's 
forces had crossed, and advanced against the Turkish position at 
Shawa Khan, which covered Bagdad from the direction of the 
Euphrates valley. Shawa Khan was easily taken on the morning 
of the 9th, but we were kept busy for the rest of the day with the 
Turkish rearguard a mile and a half to the northward. During 
the night this rearguard fell back, and on the 10th we engaged it 
within three miles of Bagdad, while our cavalry from the west 
came within two miles of the railway station, which lay on the 
right bank of the Tigris. A furious dust storm checked our ad- 
vance that day, and at midnight the enemy retired. Next morning, 
nth March, at 5.30 a.m., our troops groped their way through the 
dust into the railway station, and learned that the enemy force 
on the right bank had retired upstream beyond the city. Our 
advanced guards entered the suburbs on that bank, and the cavalry 
pressed the enemy to the north-west. Early that same morning 
Marshall had discovered that the Turks were retreating from the 
Tel Muhammad ridge. He lost no time in pursuing them, but he 
found that the dust storm prevented him from keeping contact 
with the enemy. An hour or two later he had entered Bagdad, 
and was warmly welcomed by the inhabitants, who were threat- 
ened with looting and burning by a riff-raff of Kurds and Arabs. 
Order was presently restored, and the British flag hoisted over 
the city. The fleeing Turks had attempted to destroy the stores 
they could not remove, but a vast amount of military material 
was left behind. From the Arsenal we recovered the guns which 
Townshend hid rendered useless before Kut was surrendered. 



376 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [March 

The capture of Bagdad was an event of the first magnitude 
in the history of the war. It restored British prestige in the East, 
which Kut and Gallipoli had shaken. It deprived the Teutonic 
League of a territory which had always played a vital part in 
its policy. It hit Turkey hard in her pride, and not less in her 
military strength. It cheered and enheartened our Allies, for 
Bagdad was so far the only famous city won from the enemy. 
But the chief importance of the success was its proof to the world 
of the moral of the British army and the British nation. They had 
been beaten, but they had not accepted defeat. They had fallen 
back, after their fashion, only to come again. The gallant dash 
had failed, so they had set themselves resolutely to win by slow and 
sure stages. The Tigris Expedition was in many respects a parallel 
to the old Sudan campaigns. In the one as in the other Britain 
had begun with improvisations and failed ; in the one as in the 
other she had ended with methodical organization, and had suc- 
ceeded. Victory following on failure is doubly creditable, and after 
the confusion and tragedy of her first venture it was proof of a stout 
national fibre that she could so nobly retrieve her mistakes. 

The performance of Sir Stanley Maude would be hard to over- 
praise. On a b r oad basis of careful preparation he had constructed 
a strategical scheme as brilliant as it was simple. The tactical 
work had been marked by great resourcefulness and ingenuity, 
and by the most meticulous care. Here there was none of that 
lack of generalship which at other times had made fruitless the 
gallantry of our fighting men. But if the leadership was excellent, 
the stamina and courage of the troops were super-excellent. These 
were men who had for the most part been engaged for a year and 
a half in the same terrain, who had endured every extreme of heat 
and cold, who had suffered from the countless local diseases and 
the earlier disorder of the hospital and transport service, and 
who had in their memory more than one galling disaster. Of their 
achievement let their leader speak : — 

" Each difficulty encountered seemed but to steel the determination 
to overcome it. It may be truly said that not only have the traditions 
of these ancient British and Indian regiments been in safe keeping in 
the hands of their present representatives, but that these have even 
added fresh lustre to the records on their time-honoured scrolls. Where 
fighting was almost daily in progress it is difficult to particularize, but 
the fierce encounters west of the Hai, the passages of the Tigris and 
Diala, and the final storming of the Sanna-i-yat position, may perhaps 
be mentioned as typical of all that is best in the British and Indian 
6oldier." 



BOOK III. 

THE GREAT SALLIES. 



CHAPTER LXXII. 

THE RUSSIAN COUP D'ETAT. 
December 29, igi6-March 16, 1917. 

Rasputin : his Career and Death — Protopopov — The Quiet before the Storm- 
Revolt of Petrograd Garrison — Formation of Provisional Government — The 
Petrograd Soviet — Abdication of the Emperor — The House of Romanov — ■ 
The Gap to be filled — The Failure of the Moderates. 

The opening of 1917 found Russia in a state of artificial calm. 
The stormy November session of the Duma and the unanswered 
and unanswerable attacks upon the administration had, it ap- 
peared, produced no lasting result. The autocracy had won, as 
was shown by the appointment of Prince N. Golitzin as Premier, 
the rehabilitation of men whose career had been a public scandal, 
and above all by the increased activities of M. Protopopov, the 
principal agent of reaction. Yet behind the calm there was move- 
ment, the more significant because it was so quiet. The reasonable 
and patriotic elements in Russia's life, the Duma, the Union of 
the Towns and Zemstvos, the Council of the Empire, the United 
Nobility — men of every shade of political opinion — were gradually 
drawing together. The communists in the industrial areas were 
grouped, though with a different purpose, on the same side. The 
Army and the Army chiefs were in full sympathy. Opposed 
to this great mass of opinion stood the Court circle and the 
"dark forces" — small in numbers but all-powerful, for they 
controlled the administrative machine, and the secret police 
were their docile servants. That back-world of illiberalism, cor- 
ruption, and neurotic mysticism was well aware that it was 
fighting lor its life. It had forgotten the struggle with Germany 
and the interests of the nation. Its aim was to force on a futile 
revolution, to quench it in blood, to quell by terrorism any 
agitation for reform, and to entrench itself anew in power for 

879 



380 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

another century. It had become wholly unnational, and it had 
also become desperate, for an event had happened at the close 
of the year 1916 which had been a challenge to an implacable 
vendetta. 

Forty-four years before there had been born in the Siberian 
district of Tobolsk a certain Gregory Novikh, who, as he grew up, 
was given by his neighbours the name of Rasputin, which signifies 
" dirty dog." He came of a peasant family, which, like many 
Siberian stocks, had a hereditary gift of mesmeric power. His 
youth was largely devoted to horse-stealing and perjury, and his 
prowess as a drunkard and a rural Don Juan was famed throughout 
the countryside. In early manhood he added another part to his 
repertoire. He became religious, let his hair grow long, and 
tramped about the world barefoot, while his long ostentatious fasts 
proclaimed his holiness. He was never in religious orders ; but 
his fame as an ascetic grew, and the dignitaries of the Church 
turned a favourable eye on one who might prove a popular miracle- 
worker. He did not change his habits, for on occasion he was 
as drunken as ever, and his immorality was flagrant ; but it was 
not the first time that a Casanova had masqueraded in a hair 
shirt. Devout ladies of high rank heard of him and admitted 
him to their circles, and he played havoc among the devout 
ladies. His personal magnetism and his erotic mania gave him 
an uncanny power over hysterical women on the outlook for the 
miraculous. 

Moscow was at first his sphere of influence ; but his reputation 
spread far and wide, and no scandals could check it. He started 
a new cult, where dancing and debauchery were interspersed with 
mystical seances ; and presently, through the medium of one of 
the ladies-in-waiting, he had the Imperial family among his 
devotees. The man was a scoundrel and a charlatan, but he must 
have had some strange quality of his own to attract and hold so 
great a following. He was given the office of Lighter of the Sacred 
Lamps in the Palace, but his real function was that of chief 
medicine-man to a superstitious Court. His filthy peasant's shirt 
was used as a charm to cure the little Tsarevitch of a fever. His 
lightest word became law, and he was consulted on matters of 
which he did not understand the names. Fashionable ladies 
fought for his favours ; great ecclesiastics and ministers waited 
patiently in his anteroom. He was a man of middle height, with 
curious, deep-set eyes, long thick hair, and a tangled beard, 
dressing always in peasant's clothes, and rarely washing. Few 



1916] RASPUTIN. 381 

more squalid figures have ever reached supreme power in a great 
nation.* 

After drink and women his chief passion was gold, and he 
found in politics full gratification for his avarice. To bribe Ras- 
putin became the easiest, and often the only, way to high office. 
Those who opposed him or failed to cultivate him were dismissed. 
An unfriendly journalistic reference led to the suppression of the 
paper that printed it. He held the clergy for the most part in the 
hollow of his hand. He was a friend of Count Witte in his day, 
of Maklakov and Sukhomlinov, of Goremykin and Sturmer. He 
had much to do with the retirement of the Grand Duke Nicholas, 
who never concealed his contempt for him. At the end of 1916 
he had four principal creatures through whom he conducted his 
business — Protopopov, the Minister of the Interior ; Rajev, the 
Procurator of the Holy Synod ; Manasevitch-Manuilov, a jackal 
of Stunner's ; and Pitirim, the Metropolitan of Petrograd. Grand 
dukes and princes of the royal blood appealed to the Emperor and 
Empress to shake themselves loose from his shackles, but the only 
result was the exile of the appellants. It is not probable that 
he had any serious pro-German proclivities, though he received 
German gold. He had no considered views on high politics, and 
played for his low personal ends. But he was anti-national, in- 
asmuch as he stood for the dark back-world of Russia, which must 
cease to exist if the Russian people were to emerge victorious from 
the war. J 

Such a man must live in perpetual danger, and it was noticed 
by those who interviewed him that during the winter he had begun 
to wear a hunted look, as if he heard the hounds on his trail. He 
had betrayed so many women that there was scarcely a noble 
family in Russia but had some wrong to avenge. He had been 
assaulted several times, and once he had been soundly beaten ; 
but to the amazement of Europe he went on living. The events 
of November, however, in the Duma and the Council of the Empire 

* He was thus described by an observer :— " The fascination of the man lay 
altogether in his eyes. Otherwise he looked only a common moujik, with no beauty 
to distinguish him ; a sturdy rogue, overgrown with a forest of dirty, unkempt 
hair, dirty in person, and disgusting in habits. His language oscillated between the 
stock-in-trade odds and ends of Scripture and mystic writ and the foulest vocabularv 
of Russian, which of all white men's tongues is the most powerful in the expression 
of love and affection and of abominable abuse. But the eyes of this satyr were 
remarkable— cold, steely grey, with that very rare power of contracting and expand- 
ing the pupils at will regardless of the amount of light present." 

t Guchkov had denounced him in the Duma in 1912 as " a mysterious tragi- 
comic figure, an apparition of the Dark Ages." 



382 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec 

showed him that his enemies were getting bolder. It was not the 
people at large whom he had to fear, for they scarcely knew of his 
existence. It was the nobility and the upper classes who wished 
to remove a plague spot from the national life. He grew fright- 
ened, shut himself up in his house, and only saw those who were 
first examined by his private bodyguard of secret police. Pres- 
ently his alarm increased, and he tried to conceal his whereabouts ; 
but by this time the ring was drawn close around him, and it was 
very certain that he would die. 

On the night of 29th December 1916, Prince Yusupov, a young 
man of rank and wealth, who had been educated at Oxford, and 
had married a connection of the Imperial family, rang up Rasputin 
on the telephone, and asked him to supper at his house. Such 
supper-parties were no unusual things in the man's experience, 
for he could drink any guardsman under the table, and was famous 
as a ribald jester. Rather unwillingly he accepted the invitation, 
and was fetched by his host in his own car. The chauffeur, who 
was a member of the Duma, followed them inside the house, where 
they found the Grand Duke Dimitri Paulovitch. His executioners 
locked the door, and after a struggle shot him dead. The noise 
attracted the attention of the police, who came to inquire as to its 
meaning. " We were getting rid of a troublesome dog," they were 
told. The corpse was placed in the car, and taken to a lonely island 
in the Neva, where it was weighted with stones, and dropped through 
a hole in the ice. Blood-marks on the snow and one of his goloshes 
were the only marks of the deed ; but three days later the body 
was found. After mass said by the Metropolitan, it was taken to 
Tsarskoe Selo, and buried in a silver coffin, the Emperor and Proto- 
popov being among the pall-bearers, and the Empress among the 
chief mourners. The executioners went home, and telephoned to 
the police to proclaim what they had done. Next evening the 
Bourse Gazette announced Rasputin's death, and that night at the 
Imperial Theatre the audience celebrated the event with enthusiasm, 
and sang the National Anthem. The whole country applauded the 
equity of the deed, and regarded it less as a murder than as a 
judicial execution. The man had put himself where the law could 
not touch him, and representatives of the people and of the nobility 
ceremoniously and deliberately brought him within the pale of a 
rough justice. 

The death of Gregory Rasputin was the first act in the Russian 
Revolution. It is the way of revolutions to have among their 
preliminaries some strange drama, apparently outside the main 



I9 i6] PROTOPOPOV. 383 

march of events, which yet in the retrospect is seen to be organically 
linked with it. In slaying him the Russian nobility made their 
reckoning with one who had smirched the honour of their class, 
and the next step was for the Russian people to take order with 
what was smirching the honour of the nation. But for the mo- 
ment the autocracy drew the strings tighter. Rasputin was dead, 
but Protopopov remained. The Duma, which should have met 
on January 25, 1917, was postponed for a month, in order, it was 
stated, to give the new Premier time to revise the policy of his 
predecessors. The general congress of the Union of the Towns 
and Zemstvos had already been forbidden, and the police were 
given the right of being present at all private meetings of any 
organization.* The censorship was drawn tight, and the Minister 
of the Interior turned the ordinary work of his department over 
to his assistants, devoting all his energies to the press and the 
secret police. The numbers of the latter were greatly increased, 
and Petrograd was filled with them ; while machine guns, sent 
from England for the Army and sorely needed at the front, were 
concealed on the roofs at commanding points throughout the city. 
All things were ripe for the forcing on of that abortive revolution 
which the reactionaries desired for their complete establishment 
in power. 

The protagonist in this sinister business, Alexander Protopopov, 
will remain one of the enigmas of history. Originally a Liberal, 
he came to Western Europe in the summer of 1916 with a deputa- 
tion of members of the Duma and the Council of the Empire, and 
delighted audiences in England and France with his perfervid 
oratory. He had great charm of manner, and an air of earnest 
simplicity which deeply impressed those who met him. He talked 
the commonplaces of the Allied cause, but with a conviction and 
a warmth of imagination which made his speeches by far the best 
made by any foreign visitor to our shores since the outbreak of 
war. But those who were often in his company observed that he 
seemed to be living always at fever point. He suffered much from 
insomnia, and his talk was often wild and strained. On his return 
to Russia he fell completely into the hands of the Court party, 
and more especially of those elements which were represented by 
Rasputin. His neurotic temperament and his restless romantic 
imagination predisposed him to be influenced by the glamour of 
the Court and the necromancy of charlatans. He took to spending 

* This measure was passed under Article 87 of the Constitution, which permitted 
exceptional legislation when the Duma was not in session. 



384 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Jan.-March 

as much time at seances as in the Council Chamber. Towards the 
end he became known as the " Mad Minister," and it is likely that 
his wits were seriously unhinged. That, at any rate, is the most 
charitable hypothesis on which to explain the aberrations of a 
man who had in his time done honest public service, and who was 
certainly no common traitor. 

During January and February the people seemed apathetic 
under the new tyranny. No one desired revolution except the 
agitators who had made it their business, for the thinking man 
realized that it would cripple the conduct of the war and play the 
game of the enemy. The reactionaries grew bolder, and on 9th 
February the Labour group of M. Guchkov's War Industry Com- 
mittee — the equivalent to the British Ministry of Munitions — 
were arrested on a charge of conspiracy, and imprisoned without 
trial. The outrage was received with calm, for its intention was 
seen to be provocative. M. Miliukov and some of the Labour 
leaders wrote appeals to the people to remain quiet, and their 
appeals were suppressed by the authorities. Petrograd was made 
a military district by itself, but even this menace failed to create 
disturbances. An Allied commission, including Lord Milner and 
General de Castelnau, was in Russia at the time, and its members, 
though they believed revolution to be inevitable some time or other, 
misjudged the popular temper, and thought that nothing would 
happen till after the war. On 27th February the Duma met 
amid bodyguards of police. In the Council of the Empire Scheglo- 
vitov, who had originally been dismissed from office along with 
Sukhomlinov, and in the Duma Markov, revealed themselves as 
the Government's representatives, and it was clear that Protopopov 
was about to engineer new elections, that he might have a Duma 
to his liking. Things went so tamely that the reactionaries began 
to natter themselves that their enemies were cowed, and that they 
had already won the game. But Purishkevitch, an extreme 
Conservative and a sturdy patriot, spoke more truly than he knew 
when he concluded a fiery attack on Protopopov with the words, 
" Dawn is not yet, but it is behind the hills." 

In the meantime the people were hungry, and hunger is the 
great dissolvent of patience. It had been a bitter winter with 
heavy snowfalls, and the supply of food was scanty. The im- 
mense demands of the Army had strained the transport machinery 
to its utmost, and the situation was made worse by the restrictions 
imposed on the export of grain from one district to another, for 
in some areas there were large surplus stocks. The Government 



igiy] PANIS ET CIRCENSES. 385 

had no plan to deal with the shortage, and by February the daily 
bread ration in Petrograd, small at the best, looked as if it were 
about to fail. Patiently the people waited for hours in the bread 
queues, telling each other that their kinsfolk were enduring far 
worse hardships in the trenches, and that it behoved them to be 
patient for Russia's sake. But word began to go round that before 
the spring came real starvation would be upon them, and there 
were many — Social Democrats in the factories, mysterious figures 
at the street corners — to point the moral and ask what was the use 
of a Government which could not give them bread. Long, strag- 
gling, innocent processions began to wander about Petrograd, 
helpless people asking only food for their children. They seemed 
to beg and expostulate rather than demand. 

Thursday, 8th March, was a day of clear, fine weather. In 
the afternoon there was a gala performance of Lermontov's 
Masquerade at the Alexander Theatre, on which ten years' prepara- 
tion and vast sums of money had been lavished. All day long 
women waited in the streets outside the bakers' shops for a chance 
to get their dwindling bread ration. Panis et cir censes — the old 
antidotes to revolution ! In the Duma a debate on the question 
of food supplies was winding out its slow length. Everywhere 
there seemed a profound peace — the peace of apathy and dishearten- 
ment. But in the afternoon a small party of Cossacks galloped 
down the Nevski Prospect, causing the promenaders to ask whether 
there was trouble somewhere across the river. A little later a few 
bakers' shops were looted in the poorer quarters, and a forlorn 
and orderly procession of students and workmen's wives appeared 
on the Nevski. Protopopov's spies reported that all was quiet ; 
but they were wrong, for the revolution had begun. The breaking- 
point had been reached in the people's temper, and the city was 
on the tiptoe of expectation, seeking for a sign. 

Next day, Friday, the 9th, in the same bright, cold weather, 
it became apparent that some change had taken place. The people 
by a common impulse flowed out into the streets. Some of the 
chief newspapers did not appear, and those that did contained 
solemn warnings about the crisis. The food debate in the Duma 
took a new turn, and the Government was appealed to to grapple 
with the provisioning of the capital. Crowds were everywhere, 
laughing, talking, and always expectant. The Cossack patrols 
stopped to fraternize with these groups, and seemed to be on the 
best of terms with them. Workmen chaffed and cheered the 
soldiers, and the soldiers could be heard assuring the people that 



386 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [March 

they would not shoot at them, whatever their orders. " You 
are not going to fire on us, brothers," cried the crowd to the troops ; 
" we only want bread." " No," was the reply ; " we are hungry, 
like yourselves." Towards the police, on the other hand, there 
was no friendliness. Stones and bottles were thrown at them, 
and there was some shooting. Two workmen were arrested and 
taken into a courtyard, which was defended by a company of 
soldiers. The crowd tried to rush the courtyard to effect a rescue, 
and the soldiers seemed about to fire, when a band of Cossacks 
rode up, secured the arrested men, and delivered them to their 
friends. There was very little political speech-making. Late in 
the afternoon a workman, standing on a tub in the middle of the 
Nevski, announced that they must get rid of the Government. 
One of his hearers shouted, " Down with the war ! " and was at 
once sternly rebuked. " R